The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Adventureland conquers Bromance

Search for Adventureland on and you’ll find that the adjective most often used to describe it is “charming.” Other popular descriptors are gentle, touching, sensitive, sweet-natured. Perhaps not the words of choice you’d expect to sum up a film by the writer/director of unabashed penis sketch-fest Superbad, Greg Mottola.
Adventureland also features a cast of regulars from the super-producer of Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, Judd Apatow. Although Apatow co-produced Adventureland with Superbad writer Evan Goldberg and star Seth Rogen, the film marks a more mature and romantic turn in a long line of apathetic dude comedies or “bromances.”
Set in the late 80s and scored by the indie band Yo La Tengo, it’s a rom-com about a guy (Jesse Eisenberg) who graduates from Oberlin pumped to do the Eurotrip thing with his yuppie-in-the-making friends, only to find out that thanks to his family’s new money troubles he’ll have to find his first job a little sooner—and with a lot lower standards—than he originally thought.
Enter the titular amusement park, run by Apatow staples Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, here playing a husband and wife duo. Wiig ends up providing some of the funniest sneeze-and-you-miss-it jokes, usually just by completing her husband’s sentences in a mild-mannered tone reminiscent of TV show Arrested Development-style delivery.
Kristen Stewart plays Em, a smart but troubled NYU student also bumming around back home for the summer. Her lower lip oozes the power of pout and her perpetually tousled hair adds a sultry touch to both an intelligent rant against apartheid and the wife beaters she wears under the obnoxious Adventureland T-shirt. Naturally, liberal arts graduate and virgin James (Eisenberg) is instantly smitten.
To convey Adventureland’s successful execution of this premise, perhaps it is best not to relay my own spectator experience, but that of my viewing companion (to protect his identity, I’ll call him Bob). Bob was so viscerally engrossed by the precariously developing relationship between James and Em that he literally dove head first into the Younker lounge couch during a scene where James makes out with the wrong girl after a half-assed date.
Throughout the tormenting scene, Bob writhed in discomfort and covered his face behind interlocked arms, barricading himself against this emotional onslaught.
Throughout the film, Bob exclaimed things like, “you’re an idiot!” and squealed in delight whenever (spoiler alert!) James did kiss the right girl. So although the last act couldn’t be more formulaic, this is a pretty good movie.
Adventureland finds itself not only in the Apatow arsenal but also part of a rich slacker film lineage, dating back to Richard Linklater’s early 90s comedies Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993) and Kevin Smith’s ultra low budget 16mm, hyper-witty indie Clerks (1994).
The concept of channeling existential angst through 20-something convenience store clerks and potheads has been updated not only by Apatow’s megahits, but also in the inbred indie world of mumblecore, where self-absorbed college grads aimlessly chase relationships and temp jobs, such as Funny Ha Ha, Hannah Takes the Stairs, The Puffy Chair, LOL, Mutual Appreciation.
This year, Lynn Shelton’s hilarious Humpday broke out of the pack by becoming a bona fide commercial and critical success. Given its spin on sexuality (two straight pals decide to make porn together) it’s a crime that SGA isn’t bringing it to Grinnell, but hopefully you caught it at the Bijou in Iowa City last week.
Adventureland gracefully combines Clerks’ spirit of bonehead nihilism, Apatow’s buddy charm and mumblecore’s realistically awkward dialogue as it addresses slacker dilemmas in the form of questions like: Do you keep eating a carnival corn dog even when it crunches like a snow cone? Will you hang out with that high school asshole who constantly kicks you in the balls just so you can get a ride from him? Do you shun your passion for Russian literature just so a dim-witted co-worker will hook up with you? The standard slacker answer: probably.
But there’s heart here, and a happy ending, making it a good date movie. Especially if, like, you just don’t feel like doing anything this weekend. Slack on.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *