Posted by: Christine | April 5, 2009

Adventureland – Movie Review

This isn’t your typical teen sex romp.  In reality, Adventureland is a post-college booze, drugs, sex, and vomit romp of sorts set in the Pittsburgh metro area.  The mid-80’s provides a nostalgic, almost tangible temporal backdrop for this summer-he’ll-never-forget tale.

James, finally earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature and Renaissance Studies, finds himself up a collegiate creek.  His meticulously-planned trip to backpack through Europe before pursuing a Master’s degree at Columbia University is ruined when his parents pull his financial backing.  James must earn his own way for a change, and so he scours his hometown for his first real job.  All of his expertise with Socratic discussion, Italian frescoes, and term papers critiquing 18thCentury novelists gets him nowhere.  Turned away from every job opportunity, from busboy to manual laborer, James applies for a summer job at Adventureland, a mid-sized local amusement park that is loosely based on Farmingdale’s own version on Long Island.  Halfway between an Saturday Night Live skit and Catcher in the Rye, this film’s mythic Adventureland is a playground for the sexual tensions and nihilistic daydreams of the 20-somethings employed there.

James is hired with zero background check and is given his new uniform for the summer before he can say “Games Games Games.”    The young protagonist finds no opportunity for enlightenment, nor even satisfaction in his new assignment as a host for rigged games of chance.

Somewhere in the labyrinth of vomit, marijuana, and gossip, James is able to connect with a select few of his compatriots, sharing in their loathing of Adventureland.  The misery the characters face, albeit largely self-inflicted, is relatable to many walks of life.  Despite its predictability and endorsement of life lacking in virtue, Adventureland has an earnest and vulnerable heart.

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