AThe summer of 1987 holds some special memories for me as that was the year that I graduated from high school and set about my college studies. In the summer before the start of classes, I had to learn to manage finances, become independent as much as I could and that relationships in the real world are much different than they were in school.

As nice as it would have been to spend that entire summer enjoying the sun and activities and enjoying the abundance of movies, music, and video games, the demands of work and school had to be factored in as I strove to find a balance.

In the new movie “Adventureland” Writer/Director Greg Mottola has given the audience a winning mix of romance and humor that was inspired by his adventures in a Long Island amusement park in 1987.
When recent college graduate James (Jesse Eisenberg), learns that his plans to spend his summer in Europe have fallen through, he is forced to look for work in order to help fund his pending year of graduate studies thanks to his father’s recent demotion.

Despite his degree, James is unable to find work due to his lack of experience and soon finds himself resorting to working as a games operator in the local theme park Adventureland in the Pittsburgh suburbs.

As demeaning as James finds his job, he does strike up friendships with many of his co-workers including an attractive girl named Em (Kristen Stewart) and the older ride mechanic named Mike (Ryan Reynolds).

James is popular at work for his easygoing manner and the fact that he has pot to share makes him go over well with his co-workers who look for an escape from the drudgery of their jobs and the array of park goers who help make their lives difficult.

As the summer unfolds, Em and James become closer which is further complicated by the issues in the lives which stem largely from unhappy home lives and uncertainty over their futures. When other factors come into play, love triangles form which causes James to step out from his comfort zone and take stock of his life, his future, and what truly is important to him.

“Adventureland” is not a comedy nor is it a romance, but rather it is a nostalgic look back at a summer long ago, and how the events that unfolded helped shaped the lives of one man and his friends. There are some funny moments in the film but they are secondary to the stories of growth, pain, and development that mark the final steps from youth into adulthood.

Stewart and Eisenberg have a good chemistry with one another and they portray James and Em with an earnest and honest frailty that makes them come across as real people. They are not the glamorous kids that are so often featured in films with front line wardrobe, plenty of cash, and few if any concerns. They are real people who have issues that they deal with and insecurities about themselves and their futures, and are slow to let their guards down.

The look and sounds of the era are dead on and include an abundance of late 80’s tunes, so much so that a character takes the time to joke about one song being played numerous times a day.
While some may want a bit more closure or humor in the film, it is an enjoyable look at a era gone by and is filled with many moments that viewers of any age will relate to.
4 stars out of 5