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Adventureland Revisited

Eyewear saw a little-heralded "stoner" indie movie that came and went last summer (2009) after a Sundance debut - Adventureland. Starring Kristen Stewart of Twilight infamy, and Jessie Eisenberg, of cult classic The Squid and The Whale, the film (on DVD) is actually a very sweet (and hilarious) coming of age story (with discussions of theology), set at the fag end of the Reagan 80s, in the dead-end summer job Purgatorio that is Adventureland: a sagging lo-fi amusement park that employs kids too broke to go to Europe, and divides them into a Games and a Rides cohort.

Playing on the Schindler List trope that saw Schindler's quick rise through the fascist ranks due to his copious baskets of champagne, the main character is gifted with a magic stash of weed at the start of the film, and manages to ingratiate himself quickly with the theme park wastrels.

Of these, the most touching is the loser Russian lit student, a beanpole four-eyes with alternative hair and a stunned expression; and then again, there are the girls - at one end of the the spectrum "Lisa P", a Madonna-like flirt with ideal curves in spray-on pink jeans; and Em, played by Stewart, who is a smart complicated haunted Jewish girl from a rich broken family, simply dressed in cut-offs and Lou Reed Ts. The soundtrack avoids the big hits (Prince, U2, Madonna) and goes for the chintzy core of the decade - we get songs like "Obsession", "Rock Me Amadeus" and Wang Chung. That's about right, but there are a few classics from The Cure and The Replacements. Missed are Pixies.

The style and tone is so accurately nostalgic for an era usually derided, and the characters so lovingly handled, one feels like it is classic manque that will hopefully find a new life as a rental night-in - a bit like a John Hughes film crossed with Caddyshack. I for one was deeply moved by several romantic and comic moments. Highly recommended for all those who were once smart, skinny, 21, erotically challenged, and in-between university and the bad world. One concern for the leads - so ideal are they as teen/young adult indie geeks, it is hard to imagine their twitches and grimaces and shrugs and little breaths and downcast eyes will translate bankably into adult roles later. But for now, they are sweet.
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