By Caroline Nelson ’16Film Columnist
Summer is almost here and so are summer jobs; boring, necessary, fun, or all of those at once. “Adventureland” is the sweet, clever, alternately humorous and melancholy story of one such summer and one such job.
The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as James, a recent college grad whose grand plans for a hostel-hopping European trip with his best friend are dashed when his ineffectual, alcoholic father’s salary is cut. As a result he is forced to get a low paying job at the titular local amusement park, “Adventureland.” Eisenberg is a subtle and engaging actor, who underscores a natural coldness or aloofness with an endearing vulnerability and sensitivity. This many-sidedness is one of the reasons he is so successful at conveying the main character who looks a little different based on which angle you look at him. In a welcome departure from the usual male comedy protagonist, James is in no real hurry to loose his virginity but seeks love and an apartment in New York above all else.
But the film is called “Adventureland” for a reason. The film is not just about the exploits of the main character but all the people who inhabit the trashy, silly, brightly colored world of the amusement park—many of which could be the center of their own story. They include Martin Starr’s nebbish Russian lit major who speaks with a mixture of erudition and obscenity, Ryan Reynolds’ earnestly sleazy repairman, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s quirky and enthusiastic park owners and—most of all—Kristen Stewart as the protagonist’s brooding love interest. Stewart is in many ways a limited performer but she possesses a natural intensity and self-possession, which makes her a perfect fit for the strong and passionate, yet lost and lonely, Em.
Though the story of a young man (and specifically a young writer, since writers are writers after all) coming of age, losing some innocence, figuring things out and finding love is a familiar one. But sometimes stories that are told often get that way and when they are as funny, generous, and well observed as “Adventureland,” you don’t mind so much that you may have heard it before.