Sunday, August 30, 2009
From the nutty guy what who brought you Superbad, Greg Mottola's Adventureland was released on DVD this past.....I think it was Friday. Anyway, I missed this in the theaters and was chomping at the bit to check it out. Mainly because Martin Starr, my best friend in the world, is in it. Martin played the role of Bill Haverchuck AKA by far the best character on the under-appreciated television set series 'Freaks and Geeks', a show that was put down before it's prime.
So Adventureland is from the wild and crazy guy what brung you Superbad. Did you hear that? He made Superbad. You all remember Superbad, right? Of course you do. You quote it all the time. All your friends saw it too. Anyway, that's the marketing strategy for this movie, which kind of seems like a crapshoot considering that the movie isn't really anything like Superbad. While Superbad did have it's tender moments, they were few, and nestled amongst "raunchy" and "wild" scenes. Adventureland is kind of the other way around, it is a very sweet and heartfelt movie. Rising star and Michael Cera-lab clone Jesse Eisenberg is James, a sweet and heartfelt kid who just graduated from college and is getting prepared for his obligatory introspective backpacking journey through Europe. I did that once, and the only thing I found out about myself is that I evidently I can speak Portugese very well when I'm blacked out drunk and face down on the ground. Which is awesome.
So James is all set for his big trip....oh yea, it's 1987. I forgot to mention that. The soundtrack is dope. So James is all set for his big trip, when his parents decide to fuck all his shit up by telling him (in a really prickish, off-handed way, too) that they are in financial straits and he can't go on his trip that he's been planning for years. Also that they don't have money to send him to graduate school at some prestigious college. I forget where he wanted to go. Anyway. They break it down to him just short of spitting in his face. James' future has been dashed on the rocks and he is broke. What to do?
Why, the same thing that we all had (have) to do. Get a shitty job at a place you hate. He applies at ADVENTURELAND, the local sweet and heartfelt carnival establishment. Run by the criminally underused Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig (swoon), Adventureland is the textbook small-town amusement park, complete with janky rollercoaster and ring-toss games and...I don't know, balloons and stuffed animals and shit. If you don't live in a small town, just think of the carnival from Big. All that stuff that they always have. James is assigned to the 'GAMES' portion of the park (he would prefer to be on 'RIDES') and he is absolutely miserable. His eye soon catches fellow 'GAMES' employee Emily (Kristen Stewart, that fucking vampire movie), the sweet and heartfelt girl-next-door, and all of a sudden he is slightly less miserable. Also working in the 'GAMES' department is Joel (Martin Starr, Bill Haverchuck AKA by far the best character on the under-appreciated television set series 'Freaks and Geeks'), the awkward and overly intelligent nerd (basically a grown up Bill Haverchuck). The three of them become fast friends and they hang out and shit.
As you may expect, what follows are the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of youth. I say 'as you may expect', but the wondrous thing about this movie is that while Greg Mottola is dancing in extremely familiar territory, none of it seems cliched. It's all very fresh and real. Love blooms, hearts are broken, friendships strained, weed smoked, breasts fondled. In one scene, James and Joel and Emily are eating pot cookies at Adventureland, and the presence of Bill Hader (his boss) forces him to eat more of his cookie than he originally wanted, as he doesn't want to arouse suspicion. At this moment I was terrified it was going to go the cliche Hollywood route, the path where the writers clearly have never done a drug in their lives, and show James running around the park naked with a lampshade on his head screaming gibberish. That's now how that shit works. Instead, the film cuts to James and Emily and Joel all driving bumper cars and having the best time of their lives. That scene was so honest, possibly my favorite scene of the movie.
That is, my favorite scene NOT featuring Lisa P. Lisa P is the local turbo slutty 80's bitch with the cold 80's slut fashion sense and the amazing little plump 80's slut booty. She is a revelation. She is apparently played by actress Margarita Levieva, who is my new stalking victim. See you soon, my love!
Adventureland is sweet and heartfelt, honest and real (sometimes painfully so), and occasionally something special. I eagerly await Greg Mottola's next film, I also wonder if it's title will be two words put together to make one word. It can be like his Apu Trilogy.