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Thursday
Apr232009

« In Which We Drive So We Can Get Laid »

Summer Romance

by LAUREN BANS

Adventureland
dir. Greg Mottola
107 min

Apparently it was impossible to fall in love in the late ‘80s without a car. Imagine if Lloyd Dobler had never driven Diane Court home after she ignored him all night at the party. They would have never gotten to intimately share their jejune angst with each other, he would have never taught her how to drive stick shift, and they would have never parked by the ocean and stick shifted in the backseat. Essentially the genre of Boring People Have Summer Romance wouldn’t exist without motorized vehicles.

The romance between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Adventureland is similar, if less boring. Set in 1987, they fall in love driving to Velvet Underground songs, parking under bridges, and giving each other rides home.

The amusement park helps too. It’s trashy and gross — the butt of some really funny jokes — but the general idiocy of the place also serves to make Em (Stewart), a NYU student on summer break, and James (Eisenberg), a prospective Columbia grad student, stand out to each other.

It’s like going to Forever 21 and getting tricked into loving the least offensive thing in the store mostly because it’s not an elastic tube top with a sequined portrait of Fergie. Oh hello, fellow carnie with a close-to-Ivy-league education! Obviously you’re the one I should date around here.


That’s not to say the main characters aren’t likable. James, a Comp Lit major who takes a job at Adventureland to raise money for grad school in the fall, has a sweetness to him that usually doesn’t exist in males with such nicely contoured cheekbones who major in the literary arts.

He gets away with saying things like “I read poetry for fun” and “I want to be a travel writer, but not like the Dickens kind” because he’s soft-spoken and still a virgin. He also has a huge Adam’s Apple that just kind of hangs heavy on screen at all times and reminded me of a testicle. But that’s neither here nor there.

Em, his coworker, is cooler. We know this mostly because she’s had sex, lots of it, and because she wears oversized Husker Du t-shirts, likes drugs, and goes to NYU. She works at Adventureland not out of financial necessity like James and everyone else there, but to escape being home. Her Mom died two years ago, and her Dad has remarried a woman who seems pretty inoffensive considering the amount of vitriol and wrath she inspires in Stewart.

At points it seems like Stewart’s family distress is only there to give her otherwise subdued character some depth and personality. Oh, and also so she can participate in an affair with the married maintenance guy, because, you know, women with Daddy issues do stuff like that.

It felt like the film tried to, but ultimately didn’t know how to care about her character, except as the object of puppy dog luv. The camera is perfect for this—it mimics James’s eyes searching her face during car rides in a way that almost made me understand what having an emopenis is like. But by way of dialogue, Em never says much beyond how she’s “going through a lot of shit right now” and James doesn’t even ask her what her college major/life goals are in return, which was annoying.

To be fair, Em is supposed to be one of those reticent low key girls — but when James messes up and his friend scolds him for taking Em for granted, there’s not much evidence to support his claim that she’s “the coolest”, except that she has really good taste in music and she’s Jewish. It’s a given that Jewish girls are the best.

Then again, there’s not much to James either, it’s only that he gets home team advantage by being the subject of the bildungsroman story arc. Adventureland is funny thanks to Kristen Wiig and Martin Starr, and Stewart and Eisenberg make the romance satisfyingly sweet, but you have to wonder: what are these kids actually going to talk about once this Cure montage is over?

Lauren Bans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She blogs here, and tumbls here.

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"Close to Me (demo)" — The Cure (mp3)

"A Man Inside My Mouth (demo)" — The Cure (mp3)

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    In Which We Drive So We Can Get Laid - Home - This Recording
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Reader Comments (7)

It IS annoying that he doesn't take any interest in her own hobbies, but if it's any consolation, in the original script (yes, I downloaded it and read it) he DOES ask her what she wants to do:

James: You're going into your senior year, right? What's your major?
Em: It'll probably be art history. It doesn't matter. I mean, I can't really picture myself in a profession. I don't really being part of..anything.

I guess this is her Dobbler-esque "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career" speech but since it's not as good, they left it out, since it's basically implied.

April 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFern

Sex and Pohemians in the '80s?

ANDY WHO?

April 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteven augustine

Do these movies ALWAYS have to cast white people in them? Sometimes I just want to see more brown people in them for fucksakes we're boring and middle-class too what the fuck?

April 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecks

'Strue, Becks. How brown are you? We could form a revolutionary organ and take some vanilla film hostage; I am definitely brown enough and bored with the era.

April 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteven augustine

High five my man! Seriously? The only person I can relate to is Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) in 'the Office'.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecks

I saw this movie completely differently. Jesse Eisenberg got most of the laughs. Martin Starr was mostly a tragic figure. And the fact that there's "not much" to Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart was what made them uniquely endearing. They both reject the status-seeking of the adult world for more ephemeral pleasures like watching sunsets while listening to Crowded House. It's hopelessly romantic but I loved it. Or, I loved it BECAUSE it's hopelessly romantic.

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrad N

Amen.

January 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterQ

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