Adventureland (2009) Review

Jesse Eisenberg is on the brink of acting greatness! I don’t think he’s quite a household name yet. I’m sure I could say “Jesse Eisenberg is a really good actor” and most people would say “who?” until I added, “the guy from Social Network.” I make this bold statement about his “acting greatness” because at the moment he is on a 100% success rate with the films I’ve seen him in. In Social Network he was perfect as the pretentious, arrogant but ultimately brilliant Mark Zuckerberg. In Zombieland he played the same sort of character but with a much more awkward, comical edge that seemed to fit him perfectly and I’d love to see more of those films. It is becoming such that if I see that Eisenberg is in a film, I want to watch it.

Brilliant at playing ordinary!

Which leads us very nicely to Adventureland. This was purely put on my LoveFilm list because Jesse Eisenberg is in it and he doesn’t disappoint, again. He plays a part much more on the Zombieland, awkward and comical side than the arrogant, superior, intelligent Zuckerberg. In fact I think the key to a great Eisenberg performance is that he is so likable and average, something he delivers perfectly as James Brennan in Adventureland. He is playing a 20-something man, down on his financial luck, stuck working at a local, pretty rubbish, theme park. He will find love, make friends and have a “complicated summer” but that is about it. No Zombie’s in this theme park. No multi-million dollar company to argue over. This is just a very ordinary guy in a very ordinary film but Eisenberg makes it very watchable.

Realistic, subtle humour!

It helps that this film is also very well written. It is a comedy but I wouldn’t say it’s hilarious. It does have great situations and the kind of humour that you can appeal too rather than find belly-achingly funny. The characters are all unique but real, you can see that the writer probably based each person on a real life counterpart and that means that what they say is sometimes ridiculous but also very “normal.”

This film is based on the real life experience of the writer/director Greg Mottola. Again, this helps. The story isn’t a far-fetched perfect romantic comedy where the couple faces difficulties but ultimately get together at the end in an all too perfect kiss/embrace (at the airport?) The romance between Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is pitched at a perfectly realistic level. They don’t fall in love at first sight but instead have an awkward slowly realised build-up which means that it is so much more dramatic when things do become complicated.

You can actually believe that this relationship could (or did) happen

That complication comes in the form of Ryan Reynolds who isn’t playing a lovable, cheeky rogue. In fact I’m beginning to get a lot of respect for Ryan Reynolds as I see more and more films where he holds his own and carves out comfortable performance after watchable, comfortable performance. Even as the biggest star in the film (though you could argue Stewart because of Twilight) Ryan’s part is played very subtly. The drama of the love story, of which he is the centre, isn’t played as a huge event or as a set-piece spiralling out of control but instead as something much more “real world” than “movie world.”

Even Ryan Reynolds gets to be “normal” in this film

This isn’t to say that this film doesn’t do silly and crazy but it has specific characters to fill that void. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig get some great lines and moments in the film as they play the over-enthusiastic and slightly deluded owners of Adventureland. Eisenberg’s character is also surrounded by plenty of employees who all have their own, smaller stories playing out around him that offer unique humour of their own. You can tell this was based on something very real.

Hader and Wiig get to be their effortlessly funny ‘selves.

It is also worth mentioning that Kristen Stewart is good in this film. I think she has very little to do except stare and look troubled in the Twilight films but in this she gets to do a little more acting and even has some colour in her cheeks. It bodes well for when she does things other than Twilight, like the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman.

Overall, Jesse Eisenberg will soon be a household name which directs people to watch films by his presence in them alone. I have only seen three films starring him but all three have been brilliant which means he either has impeccable choice of films or the ability to make a film watchable with his performance or both! This film is helped by its realistic tone and subtle humour. Root it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating 3.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

LOOK!!! Actual colour in her cheeks… and she’s SMILING!!!
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