I put Adventureland on my Netflix queue for several reasons, none of which involve expecting it to be a good movie. I mean, I was open to the possibility of mildly enjoying it, but I didn’t expect it to make an best-of lists.
Reason #1 had a lot to do with Superbad. That is, Greg Mottola, the director of Superbad, who was the writer and director of Adventureland. Superbad is an iconic movie of my generation that helped to usher in a new style of comedy and a fresh group of comedic actors. For me it was released at the perfect time: the summer after high school graduation. Even though the movie bares little resemblance to my high school experience, I could relate to its tone. So when we’re talking about Greg Mottola’s first movie after Superbad, I’m bound to be curious.
Reason #2 is Jesse Eisenberg. Although I knew him by sight, I had never seen him act until The Social Network. I found him hypnotic to watch, interesting without being particularly loveable, and in my book he fully earned his Oscar nomination. Then I read about how the Mark Zuckerberg character was different from his usual type, which was basically a well-meaning nerd full of nervous energy. Not unlike Michael Cera, or so it sounded. I tested this theory with Zombieland and now Adventureland. (Yes, he did two movies with the word “land” in the title. Both in 2009, no less!)
I approached Adventureland with these two points of curiosity. And what was the verdict? Well, it’s no Superbad, not that it’s necessarily trying to be. Greg Mottola plucks a few actors from the Judd Apatow tree, but that’s no surprise. I’m always happy to see Martin Starr, having loved him since his Freaks and Geeks days. However, the strength of the overall cast is just not the same. Their first mistake was casting Kristen Stewart. A romantic lead, even a troubled one, needs the audience to root for her, and I have yet to really like her in a movie. She mostly exudes disinterest and practices the art of hair-acting.
As for Jesse Eisenberg, he definitely has a schtick, but it’s one that I can appreciate. After four years at Carleton, I seem to have developed a soft spot for nervous, well-meaning nerds. He projects enough intelligence that I can imagine him as a more well-rounded character than some of his type-casting might suggest. The Social Network probably earned him some goodwill as well. When we know that someone can act, we give them the benefit of the doubt, right?
Apparently others are as taken with Kristen Stewart’s acting ticks as I am! Here’s a delightful compilation video. Skip to 1:05 for a hair-touching extravaganza! Plus bonus tips on meaningful blinking and breathing.