In 1987, James Brennan's dreams of a summer European tour before studying at an Ivy League school in New York City are ruined after his parents have a severe career setback. As a result, James must get a summer job to cover his upcoming expenses at the decrepit local amusement park, Adventureland, where he falls in love with a witty co-worker, Emily Lewin. In that bizarrely shady workplace, the young carnies have unforgettable and painful learning experiences about life, love and trust while James discovers what he truly values.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader were only on set for four days. All scenes with their characters, Paulette and Bobby, had to be condensed and shot quickly due to their commitments to Saturday Night Live. See more »
The man wearing the Jack Lambert jersey (Steelers #58) is wearing a style of jersey that wasn't introduced until 1997. See more »
Well, you know, my dad's a lawyer. It's been his life-long dream for his daughter to work at Adventureland.
See more »
A commercial for the Adventureland amusement park can be seen during the end credits. See more »
'Adventureland' is a melancholy voyage into the grey zone between adolescence and adulthood, school and career, lust and relationships, frivolity and responsibility. That is to say it is not 'Superbad' and that's supergood.
Upon graduating, comparative literature major James Brennan is informed that due to his father's recent demotion (alcoholism is an implied cause), the parents will not be funding his planned and hopefully transformative European vacation. James returns to his parents' Pittsburgh home with virginity and intellectual pretensions intact.
Still planning on attending Columbia Journalism School and needing funds, James seeks summer employment and settles for a job as a game both operator at Adventureland, a local amusement park that has seen better days. He is after all a comp lit major and not even qualified for manual labor.
Of course Adventureland is more than meets the eye. We're introduced to the interior lives of park employees. Extremely powerful performances are provided by Jesse Eisenberg, Martin Starr, Margarita Levieva, Ryan McFarland, and especially Kristen Stewart as James's sort of girlfriend Em.
These are not stock characters (with the exception of the ballbusting Frigo character, put here for childish laughs). The characters are emotionally and behaviorally complex. They wrestle with what it means to be young (or not so young) what it is to be in a relationship, the meaning of sex, employment, violence, drug use, fidelity, intellectualism, relationships with parents and their new spouses, the value of education. In short, what it means to be a person.
To enhance its verisimilitude, the film is mostly set to mid eighties tunes (Expose, The Mary Jane Girls, etc.). These songs are of the mid-eighties, but the film is set in 1987. It's a slight jab at the less than cutting edge nature of Pittsburghian society circa 1987. No matter, the film does not ridicule the zeitgeist. Rather, it takes seriously the emotional resonance of the sex, the music, the clothes, the hair, the ganja, the drinking, and the want to all involved (it was serious) and in so doing achieves poignancy.
The film touched me and not just because I was almost James's age living not too far from Pittsburgh in 1987, but because it addresses what it means to be on the shaky cusp of adulthood in such an honest way. A must see.
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