15 December 2009


Written & Directed by: Greg Mottola
Full credits at IMDb

Greg Mottola directed Superbad, in which he distinguished himself as more than just a director-for-hire with that film’s final shot, the most moving in all of 2007: the camera assumes Michael Cera’s point of view, watching Jonah Hill at the head of an escalator, slowly disappearing as Cera rides down. In a single shot, Mottola expressed everything about how men grow up and grow apart that screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg had struggled to say in the previous 113 pages.

In Adventureland, Mottola directs from his own script, and therefore has 107 minutes to demonstrate the tenderness that appeared only fleetingly in his previous film, obscured beneath a nearly impenetrable layer of obscenity. (Superbad was funny as hell, but structurally it was sloppy, and is a bore on repeated viewings.) Jesse Eisenberg, doing a Michael Cera impression, plays a young adult whose dreams of spending his summer between college and grad school in Europe are dashed when his parents can’t foot the bill; instead, he stays in Pittsburgh, working the only job he can find—running games at the amusement park that gives the film its title.

The characters are broad enough to warrant the film mass appeal, but the film is never, except in Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s unsubtle comic turns, anything but stalwartly sincere, from the bumbling awkwardness of the academic to the employees’ camaraderie in shared misery, familiar to anyone who’s ever worked a shitty gig for minimum wages. The authenticity of working class desperation underlies the film: everyone’s parents have been downsized; half the kids are overeducated, the other half seeming-dropouts; the rock stars front shitty bar bands; grown-ass men still live with they moms. The dramedy builds to conflict that’s predictable as much as it’s inevitable; and yet, because of the emotional honesty in which Mottola steeps the film, it’s harrowing. The climactic reconciliation? Obvious. And fucking heartbreaking. Grade: A

Watch the trailer:

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