Monday, 15 June 2009
The year is 1987, and James (Jesse Eisenberg) is fresh out of high school with a pocketful of dreams. Unfortunately, dreams are all that are left in his pocket after work trouble means his parents pull the plug on the money that would have enabled him to travel across Europe and he's forced to get a job at local - and very cruddy - amusement park Adventureland. There he gets to oversee various extremely rigged games, risk death at the hands of patrons who don't mind cheating - and going for a knife - when a "big-ass panda" is at stake, and generally feel like he's wasting his life. Things start to turn around once he gets a handle on his fellow workmates, including the musician / handyman who supposedly once jammed with Lou Reed, Mike (Ryan Renyolds), the pipe-smoking brainy dork Joel (Martin Starr from Freaks & Geeks), and most importantly, Em (Kristen Stewart from Twilight), an indy music chick with just the right attitude to pull the smart boys. So why she's secretly having an affair with the married Mike is a bit of a mystery. Not that James knows that as the bond between them grows and it slowly starts to look like he might finally get a chance to lose his virginity... if he doesn't screw it up, that is. Smart, funny, with a great (if seedy) atmosphere and a real feel for what it feels like to be waiting for your life to start, this does a first rate job of breaking out of the confines of the "summer that everything changed" genre. If you've ever felt like someone somewhere else was having a whole lot more fun than you then this will really resonate, and a string of great performances from a universally convincing cast help make this one of the most likeable entrants in the coming-of-age field in a long while.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #455)