When his parents are unable to help him with his rent whilst away at college and fund his European vacation James (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to take a job at a rundown theme park. The games are rubbish and the rides ancient but the place does have its charms most notably Em (Kristen Stewart). Set in the 80’s it avoids the usual pitfalls of “period” films. We don’t get ironic conversations about the latest technology and gadgets. This film is extremely well written and could have been set at any time in the past forty years. For that matter the theme park is also irrelevant, it could just as easily be set in a record shop (Empire Records), Supermarket (Cashback or Go) or a high school (any number of John Hughes films). The characters are clichéd but not to the detriment of the film. Eisenberg’s James is the perfect blend of geek, hopeless romantic with just the tiniest glimmer of cool, think Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous or any one of a number of parts played by Michael Cera. Ryan Reynolds provides great support as Connell the parks maintenance man and would be rock star. Stuck in an unhappy marriage and still working at the theme park in his 30’s he could come across as a looser but driving his classic Plymouth Duster and playing in a band he is a folk hero to the kids in the park. But Kristen Stewart is the real revelation, she is so perfect as Em that all but the most obsessive Twilight fan will forget Bella Swan within five minutes. She has really grown up since the tomboy we first saw in Panic Room. Em is emotionally damaged, from the death of her mother and the affair she is having with Connell. She is the perfect foil for Margarita Levieva’s Lisa P who is sexy on the surface and desired by all the men in the park but is ultimately an uninteresting airhead. On the strength of this I am really interested to see her play Joan Jett in The Runaways.
The film has been really poorly marketed, directed by Greg Mottola of Superbad fame the trailer and marketing suggest it will be a similar type of film. This causes two problems, it will put off people who will actually enjoy it and attract people who will dislike it. What we actually get is a far more thoughtful and tender film, the characters have an emotional vulnerability of real people that is lacking in post American Pie movies that would probably be more appropriately labelled teenploitation than teen comedy. I have a feeling the real fans of these teen comedies are actually younger than the characters they portray. Adventurland is more likely to appeal to an older audience who have already lived the so called coming of age period of their lives, like me!
One day I will not finish a review with the lines “my only complaint“, however that day is not today. My one complaint is that Kristen Stewart and her character Em are far more interesting and engaging than Eisenberg’s James, maybe they should have made her the central character of the film!