Adventureland (2009): Movie Review

Forever fueling my Jesse Eisenberg addiction, Adventureland (2009) is a film from director and screenwriter of comedy classic, Superbad (2007), Greg Mottola. This being a much lower-grossing film, it was more of an independent project than the previous blockbuster, but it still managed to become quite the critical success. This film was a pivotal one in both Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart’s careers, around the time they were both shooting off into the realm of Hollywood. And the two would actually eventually co-star in another film, American Ultra (2015), 6 years later! But what do I think of my man Jesse Eisenberg, and this 9-year-old Comedy/Drama?

Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is once again brilliant, in my opinion. He takes the young, conflicted, young twenties character, James, and makes him a real person once again. He reminds me of another one of my other favorite actors, Michael Cera, in the way he portrays these more awkward young adult characters. They are both really good at making them appear human, which I feel is a rarity in today’s romantic comedies (and romantic comedies in general). They don’t overplay the part, and instead just make both their actions and reactions very relatable. This continues with Jesse Eisenberg in this film as well. I don’t think he carries the load as much as he does in the film The Social Network (2010), but I also don’t think he necessarily has to. There’s much more star power surrounding him, with people like Bill Hader, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds, plus it’s more of a comedy than a drama, shifting some of the focus away from him. So overall, solid performance from Jesse Eisenberg once again.

Kristen Stewart also significantly impresses me in this film. Before watching Adventureland, the only exposure I had to her acting was through the first two Twilight movies, which I was not particularly impressed with, even at a younger age. That being said, she does a good job doing similar things to what I just stated about Jesse. She is good at portraying a raw and realistic character, with several little ticks and flaws that make us human. So hats off to her, as I wasn’t necessarily expecting her incredibly solid performance.

The aforementioned acting duo in this film is definitely the main highlight when it comes to the characters, but the other actors and actresses are incredibly key and enjoyable as well. While James and Em (Jesse and Kristen’s characters) are driving forward the main story, the antics of the others are what drives the comedy aspect. Characters like Bobby (Bill Hader) and Joel (Martin Starr) are fantastic, and play a large role in the film. All of them do a great job of being believable, entertaining, and fun.

The writing and directing is also pretty outstanding overall. All of the characters are written outstandingly. The dialogue is hilariously awkward and realistic. Even the side characters have their own arcs and explanations as well. They delve into the backgrounds of a majority of the characters in the film, attempting to put a spotlight on their situation, and give an understanding of their actions. This happens moreso than in films like The Social Network, where I think a lot of great characters stand out, but not a lot of backgrounds are fully explored. The scene where James goes to Joel’s house is a nice, small moment to put a little focus on Joel and what he’s gone through in his life. Though it can be unnecessary at times, they’re often a few short lines or shots that don’t clog up the movie and extend the running time. I wish more writers would take the time to do this, because it can clear things up, make certain personas feel more real, or just add some depth to certain people.

The other less important, yet still nice thing I’d like to highlight is its soundtrack. The film takes place in 1987, and is chalked full of great hits throughout. It has a specific focus on Lou Reed, and the Velvet Underground particularly because it’s supposedly James’ favorite artist. Therefore the soundtrack is filled with these artists’ songs. But it also includes songs from the Cure, Bowie and INXS. One of the funnier parts is when they directly reference the fact that “Rock Me Amadeus,” by Falco is played there 20 times a day. I don’t necessarily know if it’s a statement about pop music getting stale, but I took it as that, and it makes me laugh a lot. And under that umbrella of thought, I almost see the soundtrack as an artistic statement against a lot of “manufactured” music. Which if so, I find it great! I got carried away, but either way, it’s a great soundtrack that I find enjoyable.

Overall, the film is incredibly high quality. It had a very low budget of $1.7 million, but doesn’t need any more. The raw qualities of all the characters, the great acting, intriguing storylines, and loads of laughs make for a wonderful time. Much like my latest reviewed movie, Greenberg (2010), its highlights are definitely in the great character interactions, acting, and aesthetics, making it not really interesting to a larger, blockbuster audience. That being said, every aspect is superb and you don’t need to catch everyone’s eye to be a quality product. I think the film is better at being more accessible than Greenberg is, which makes me put it a little bit higher, at a 9/10. I don’t think it has the X-factor of the great original soundtrack and filmography that The Social Network has, so I can’t rank it as high. Nonetheless, it’s a worthwhile watch, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

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