“You take one step and miss the whole first rung.” --the Replacements, "Bastards of Young"
Well, although my “talkback” is already full of Adventureland material, I haven’t officially written about it, so now I will, real quick-like, before we all move on to Seth Rogen in Observe and Report!
Never mind Adventureland's deliberately misleading “bromantic” marketing campaign: the film is more akin to two films that I love: Barry Levinson’s Diner and Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming. In Diner, a group of young men head their various ways after high-school but hold on to their old haunt, the diner, as a sort of place-out-of-time, somewhere they can rehash old conversations and pretend they aren’t growing up and drifting apart. Kicking and Screaming concerns a group of just-out-of-college friends lingering near campus, hitting the same old bars, nostalgic, as one of them puts it, “for conversations I had five minutes ago.” Adventureland is not quite as perceptive as those two films, but it’s a near pitch-perfect late 80’s period piece about a young college graduate, James Brennan, whose knowledge of the humanities, at least in the short term, makes him fit for nothing but a summer job at a run-down amusement park, a waystation on the way to grad school, but one that also puts him in contact with the kinds of people his narrow intellectual world usually keeps out of sight (such as Kristin Stewart’s Em, a sharp girl with a thing for bad boys). Brennan is a virgin, and the film’s opening suggests that it might become an American Pie-ish, lose-your-virginity flick, but it doesn’t play that way. Brennan is not the clueless nerd of those films, but rather the sensitive smart guy who once decided not to sleep with a girlfriend because of an epiphany gleaned from a Shakespeare sonnet (“You mean you didn’t go ahead and fuck her anyway?” asks Kristen Stewart when informed, unaware that guys like Brennan exist). At the heart of the film, of course, is the romance that develops between Brennan and Em, which is threatened by her nowhere-bound relationship with a married amusement park janitor and his flirtation with a beautiful but ditzy employee. Formulaic, sure, but unlike most formulaic romances, it feels honest. Even its happy ending feels earned. Plus, Brennan gets laid, which is nice.
Dr. X retorts: "Admittedly, I bought the soundtrack to A-land... and I broke! I broke hard. But then I foundout it was rarify sissy water and not a fine Kip's Chicken Fried Steak from Montana Mikes... and I passed."