Thursday, August 3, 2017

In short: Adventureland (2009)

Not being a professional middle-aged US film critic, I don’t really share the group’s love – obsession, really – for coming of age films (nor films about directors whining about how horrible their life of luxury and fame is). You probably need to be nostalgic for your youth to love the sub-genre quite so much, I suspect, and I tend to be not terribly nostalgic for the worst decades of my life.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate when a coming of age movie works as well as Greg Mottola’s film about a young guy (Jesse Eisenberg) taking a summer job in an amusement park to scratch together the money for his college tuition does. Especially when a film puts an enormous effort into portraying a recognizable time and place. While Adventureland certainly hits the usual beats of its genre, it is often really rather witty doing it, with sharp dialogue and pacing that suggests thoughtfulness without being slow.

The film also takes some pleasantly unexpected turns, adding complications and depths to character types that don’t usually get these, in coming of age comedies particularly. The film even makes efforts to treat its female characters as more than pure hurdles for its teenage male white main character to jump over, under or through. Characters who have their own lives, wishes, and dreams that might even not have anything to do with the protagonist at all. In fact, one of the film’s more subtle arguments seems to be that growing up means learning to realize how people and their lives aren’t only important in the ways they relate to one’s own life, and that some adults – here exemplified by Ryan Reynolds – never learn this kind of empathy and understanding, which stunts them more than any shit job ever could.

This is also one of the better outings of young Kristen Stewart, doing an okay job in the part of her career when that sort of consistency wasn’t a given – which is of course perfectly understandable from a nineteen year old kid.

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