Adventureland: Long Hours, Low Pay, High Times (2009)

Posted: July 8, 2012 in Comedy, Drama, Romance

Before settling his plans to go on a European journey and graduate school, James Brennan learns that his parents are struggling for money and will not be able to help him cover the cost. Moving back to his hometown, the only job he can seem to get is back at the local amusement park as a games operator. It is here that he meets Em Lewin, one of the other games operators who seems to catch his eye. Though he believes they are experiencing a budding romance, Em is secretly spending time with Mike Connell, the park’s maintenance man and mysterious cool guy. As he discovers that he can only get so far with Em, he allows himself to get caught up with the park’s most coveted rides operator, Lisa P. When feelings get crossed, James learns about life, love, trust and what he truly values most.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg (James Brennan), Kristen Stewart (Em Lewin), Bill Hader (Bobby), Kristen Wiig (Paulette), Ryan Reynolds (Mike Connell), Margarita Lewis (Lisa P), Kelsey Ford (Arlene), Michael Zegen (Eric), Jack Gilpin (Mr. Brennan), Wendie Malick (Mrs. Brennan), Matt Bush (Tommy Frigo), Martin Starr (Joel), Paige Howard (Sue O’Malley), Dan Britter (Pete O’Malley)

Though not too much different from his other roles, Jesse Eisenberg’s status as a book smart but socially inept young adult works for the conflict of the film, as he struggles with feelings of failure and learns about the realities of love. Kristen Stewart, in similar fashion, does not need to stretch herself past her traditional solemn demeanor, as she makes herself appear to be an outcast. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig have a good supporting chemistry as the simple but enthusiastic park operators. Ryan Reynolds serves well in his supporting role, as this is one of his few films that subdues the intensity of his personality.


Greg Mottola’s film has its moments of entertaining comedy and raw emotional challenges. James always felt that he was destined for big things, but his parents’ money woes ruined his chances to go on his dream vacation and temporarily go to his desired grad school. When every possible summer job seemed to reject his level of education and experience, the only option left was the amusement park. Though he desired to operate the rides, he got stuck with the games and quickly learned that the life of a games operator was one without excitement, except for the occasional shakedown by cheating park-goers. Though the film gives a good perspective of the range of the park’s offerings, it does not dive too deeply into making a statement about the life of a carney.


The love story is full of entanglements and misperceptions, as James believes he has something happening with Em. In reality, she struggles with the idea of commitment and actually has a hidden relationship with Mike, even though Mike is married. With all of the rest of the guys at the park coveting Lisa P, James’s intelligence and his access to marijuana seem to attract her to going out on a date together and periodically confiding in him. When James learns of Em’s secret, he tells Lisa and causes an uproar across the park’s staff. While it surprisingly never affects the friendship between James and Mike, the truth finally leads to an opportunity for James and Em to finally be together, if he can only find her.

While this film is somewhat of an indie teenager/young adult film, it has a number of redeeming qualities, even if the acting is only okay.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5

  1. […] The first job angst is real. Image from Down the Red Carpet. […]

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