d. Greg Mottola / USA / 2009 / 107 mins
Viewed at: Lecture Theatre 1 @ UEA (Norwich, UK)
There is a fine line between imbuing a film with a genuine sense of ‘period authenticity’, and over-egging the (counter)cultural pudding to the point that your set/soundtrack/wardrobe is almost fully immersed in period signifiers, thus bludgeoning your audience over the head with their own trendiness. Greg Mottola’s nostalgic, 1980s teen dramedy Adventureland is, for me, a case in point.
Over the course of 107 minutes, Adventureland veers perilously close to the inauthentic, threatens to boil over into the disingenuous, before reaching saturation point via a surplus of Lou Reed references, achingly cool ’80s indie t-shirts and general indie-fetish gimmickry. And yet, for the most part, Mottola manages to keeps his ’80s indie rock references in check with a fair amount of subtlety, providing a reasonably solid social context for its characters and their cultural tastes.
So whilst 2007 indie-hipster fave Juno suffered largely because exclamations about Sonic Youth et. al. seemed to emanate less from the character delivering the lines in front of the camera, than from the key crew members behind it (particularly screenwriter Diablo Cody), Adventureland is crafted well enough for you to assume that Kirsten Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg’s characters do actually have some emotional investment in the music that they claim to adore.
That said, perhaps this is simply a case of knowing your product. After all, Adventureland is based largely on the formative experiences of its writer and director (Mottola), who spent his younger days doing exactly what his characters do here: fumbling through relationships, obsessing about music and working in a dilapidated amusement park.
Then again, who cares about all that. Adventureland has Martin Starr in it, and I will watch anything with Martin Starr in it.