I have recently watched Adventureland and (500) Days of Summer for the first time since seeing them at the cinema in 2009. On first viewing I enjoyed both movies slightly favouring Adventureland, but how have they aged? Firstly for those who don’t know them here is a brief synopsis of each:
Adventureland: Following a change in their fanatical circumstances James Brennan’s (Jesse Eisenberg) parents are unable to help pay his rent whilst away at college and fund his long planned European vacation. Instead he is forced to take a summer job, to this end he finds himself working at a rundown theme park. The games are rubbish and the rides ancient but the place does have its charms most notably Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart).
(500) Days of Summer: Set over 500 days but dispensing with a linear narrative instead choosing to jump backwards and forwards to different parts of the relationship between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Through this we gradually build up a picture of who these people are as well as what happened to them.
The big problem with Adventureland on its initial release is that it was very poorly marketed. Directed by Greg Mottola of Superbad fame the trailer and marketing suggest it will be a similar type of film. What we actually get is a far more thoughtful and tender film, the characters have the emotional vulnerability and depth of real people that is lacking in post American Pie movies that would probably be more appropriately labelled teenploitation than teen comedy. An extremely well written movie, it could have been set in any time or place but actually wears its 1980’s setting a well avoiding the usual pitfalls of “period” films with their ironic dialogue and nostalgic nods to the age.
The tone of (500) Days of Summer is perfectly set by the Author’s Note that appears at the start of the film: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely Coincidental …….. Especially you Jenny Beckman……… Bitch. We are reminded that it isn’t a love story, a claim that is not entirely true, but it certainly isn’t a “rom-com” in the traditional sense. This is a good thing, a very good thing as is the skill with witch the none linear narrative is handled. The film also benefits from great dialogue.
Adventureland’s casting is perfect, Jesse 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. The real star of the film is Kristen Stewart in her first post Twilight movie. The role of an emotionally damaged teenager isn’t a hugely demanding one but she is perfectly cast and shows ability far beyond what her detractors would have you believe she is capable of. Ryan Reynolds, provides good support and there is fantastic comic relief from Bill Hader and the always brilliant Kristen Wiig.
(500) Days of Summer is equally well cast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who at the time was best known to me as the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun) is excellent displaying great range and providing comic moments in his successes and his failures. Zooey Deschanel is only partly successful, she only seems able to play slight variations on the same slightly kooky character but that does work in this film but does nothing to enhance my opinion of her as a actress.
The second viewing has done nothing to change my opinion, I like both of these films but if anything my preference for Adventureland has increased slightly. If you haven’t seen these two movies they are well worth a look. If you have seen them and like them, here are five recommendations: Dazed and Confused (1993), Almost Famous (2000), Cashback (2006), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).
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