Nothing makes you notice summer time isn’t really all that particular fairly like your first summer time job. It’s a sure small dying of childhood, the belief that the stretch between the lengthy weekends of Memorial Day and Labor Day received’t all the time be outlined by an absence of accountability. Actual life is coming for you and it’s coming quick: minimal wage, rigid hours, and a parade of malignant dunces within the type of clients you cater to and associates you share a break room with. There are few movies extra in tune with the load of that small dying and the way we navigate it than Greg Mottola’s 2009 maybe-masterpiece Adventureland.
In crafting his follow-up to 2007’s smash hit Superbad, it could have been simple to coast on the identical unfastened, improvisational teen-boy humor that made the movie one of many most-quoted of the last decade. As a substitute, Mottola stripped it down, making a movie that capabilities each as a pseudo-chronological follow-up (Superbad is a high-school commencement journey, Adventureland a post-college hold) and a passive takedown of his prior work — it appears at instances designed to piss off anybody hoping for extra jokes in regards to the methods by which fool teenage boys wish to fuck their classmates. The result’s a quieter, extra contemplative, and altogether extra profitable movie.
Adventureland follows Jesse Eisenberg as James Brennan, a university graduate with a literature diploma sure for a summer time in Europe (a commencement reward from his mother and father) after which grad college at Columbia — or so he thinks. Reagan’s America looms giant all through Mottola’s Pittsburgh ’87, and James finds out over a celebratory commencement lunch together with his mother and father that his father has been demoted. Europe off the desk, he’ll have to get a summer time job, and his mother and father are actually far much less supportive of one thing as frivolous as a second diploma in a ineffective main. Despondent, he roams city submitting functions to a handful of dead-end gigs. His full lack of labor expertise means the one place on the town determined sufficient to rent him is Adventureland, a dumpy native amusement park run by married couple Bobby (Invoice Hader and Invoice Hader’s mustache) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig). Seasonal jobs of any type have a tendency to draw a returning solid of characters; with summer time already below method, James quickly finds himself a brand new cog in a transferring machine. He finds a kindred spirit in Martin Starr’s Joel, a pipe-smoking weirdo finding out Russian literature, and rapidly sparks up a romance with Kristen Stewart’s Em, an artwork historical past main at NYU spending her summer time again at dwelling.
Adventureland is a crummy park filled with rigged video games and rides in determined want of a security inspection (which they might fail), making for a crummy job of placing up with entitled 20-something yuppies and latchkey children whose mother and father are too drained to self-discipline, all of whom are having the perfect day of their summer time whereas every day the park’s staff sleepwalk by way of an infinite cycle of worsts. Mottola fills within the movie’s clean areas with pictures of delighted crowds on curler coasters and carousels juxtaposed with the Video games crew of James, Joel, and Em simply standing round, ready for his or her shift to finish (or at the very least for one in every of their five-minute lavatory breaks each two hours). Get used to it, the world appears to say — that is the place a level within the arts will get you.
It’s the identical existential malaise that hangs during the last days of summer time earlier than college begins once more. These days are weighed down by the attention that actual life is coming for you in only a few quick days, that each journey to the pool or bike trip with your pals is among the final. For the Adventureland staff, their entire season is the final day of summer time. There’s an impending doom on the horizon, with actual life and a Reaganomics-driven tradition lurking on the finish of the calendar (and even the tip of the workday in Em’s case — life at dwelling with a passive father and a merciless stepmother is difficult).
Eisenberg brings his signature twitchy nuance to James, a romantic in an more and more sensible world attempting desperately to cling to a life he’d solely simply began to construct for himself — one on a creaky basis to start with. His romance with Em begins predictably candy, the kind of summer time love he’s grown up studying about in books and seeing in films. However James’s protagonist syndrome clouds actuality: He’s the brand new man on the job, transferring by way of an ecosystem of preexisting relationships. Mottola performs his hand effectively right here, displaying the viewer early on that issues aren’t so simple as James has imagined them to be effectively earlier than he finds out for himself. One of many movie’s main plots includes the James/Em romance being sophisticated by Em’s affair with the park’s (married) handyman Connell (a career-best flip from Ryan Reynolds; Mottola is among the solely administrators who appears to know that the actor’s signature snark has an inherent skeeviness to it). It’s a assured transfer, taking what lesser filmmakers would use as a second-act twist and reframing it as one thing that makes a candy summer time romance really feel doomed from the beginning (aren’t all of them, although?).
There’s actually an argument to be made that the movie wraps itself up a bit too neatly (after a falling-out with Em, James strikes to New York and reconciles together with her), however there’s a nuance to it that stops it from feeling wholly unearned. It feels much less a studio-mandated glad ending and extra a rejection of the selfishness and cynicism James and Em’s world appears to be pushing them to simply accept. Mottola drew on his experiences working a summer time gig at a Lengthy Island theme park. As such, the movie ends in a spot that feels true to the vaguely common expertise of a dead-end summer time job: They suck, however they’re additionally the place the place your goofy boss grabs a baseball bat and chases down the guido who’s attempting to kick your ass. They’re the place you spend a complete shift zonked out of your thoughts on pot cookies and virtually get knifed over an enormous stuffed panda. You possibly can’t keep there eternally and also you shouldn’t wish to, even when there’s a sure consolation within the hazy purgatory they supply within the bridge between childhood and maturity. However you might be glad one thing is over with out throwing out the great moments (nonetheless fleeting) with the dangerous. Summer time is finite, however in an more and more unsentimental world, there’s one thing to be mentioned for refusing to let a very good factor die away simply because Labor Day has come and gone.