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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

/* is this happening ? */ - Good night Adventureland !

What is it about Pittsburgh that produces depressing movies about lost characters - in evidence we submit The Deer Hunter, The Wonder Boys, Pittsburgh, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Adventureland.

Sometimes it can be jarring to see a favourite indie actor pop out of place in a major film: a la Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot or Undertow or Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg's Dear Wendy into Peter Jackson's King Kong or Camilla Bell emerge from The Quiet or The Ballad of Jack and Rose into 10,000 BC or Push. Meanwhile there is Jesse Eisenberg who apart from a M. Night sortee into The Village has stuck to Roger Dodger and the forlorn Walt Berkman in The Squid and The Whale.

And once again Jesse Eisenberg is the stoic yet sad Brennan, James Brennan in Adventureland. Brennan has just broken up with a girl he has known for all of eleven days. His high expectations of a six week summer fun vacation in Europe, then grad school at Columbia for journalism and staying in an apartment in New York City with his friend are his way out of hometown. Alas! are shot down in flames as his father is transferred at work to a lesser paying position. So he badly neds money to pay for his education.

A scholarship student majoring in literary, his proceedings in life have proven him inexperienced to even qualify for manual labour jobs in Pittsburgh.

His dysfunctional parents denoted by the copious alcohol consuming father and an ever blame-assigning mother drive Brennan to the desperation of accepting a summer job with his prankful and mean-spirited friend Tommy Frigo at theme park Adventureland.

On his first day out, he meets a girl whose demeanour seem wise beyond her years, yet there she is. Being the new guy Brennan spots her. "Hi, I'm the new guy." On the second day, the new girl saves Brennan from being stabbed over a big-ass panda. Which is where all the fun and drama begins. Adventureland is very skewed - this could have been a flat out comedy but veers towards the quirks and quirky highs in life.

Adventureland brings alive again a time where music defined the generation - The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum ruled amongst angst-filled kids - and Lou Reed is god. Adventureland maintenance man Mike Connell's claim to fame is playing guitar with Lou Reed one night. The cast of Adventureland is stellar and brings 1987 to life, yet Adventureland dwells in a nostaligic melancholy. Kristen Stewart wearing the perfect Lou Reed Velvet Underground t-shirt brings a very un-Twilight like performance - as Em, still an outsider concealing an inner self full of painful reminders. Her room is adorned with posters of the Buzzcocks Love Bites and Diamond Dogs Bowie, and she collects the coolest records - Big Star's Radio City is on display during the party. Ryan Reynolds as Connell doesn't rise above the rest of the cast - he does his daily chores with a matter-of-fact friendliness and gets along with James, dispensing bits of advice. Brennan's musical hero is Lou Reed and he has a copy of Transformer carefully perched on his system.

The Stardust is a place to hang out and drown the rest of the day while listening to Foreigner or Stones cover bands - Connell goes there with his attractive wife while trying to keep a dalliance with Em on the side, meeting up with her at his mother's basement.

The highlight of the summer is the arrival back of the bodacious Lisa P. played by Margarita Lavieva - along with her sidekick Kelly. Lisa P is hot and she knows it, always in tandem with the similar strutting Kelly - but even Lisa P. does not rise above it all - she does not have overbearing attitude and even deigns to go on a date with James. James is no fool, and recognizes it is probably a payback at one of her suitors, but hey! it's Lisa P!

But in the long run, what dominates Adventureland is this ever-budding bond and romance between the ever-virginal James and Em - they often kiss and fade to black [ she saves him from being knifed over a "giant ass panda" ! ]

Adventureland is this year's Dazed and Confused (and harkens the yearning undertones of The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, which is a good thing) except the events of the best time of their life transpires over a summer instead of one night with stellar performances from a starry cast keeping it real.

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