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Adventureland

Does the thought of a bunch of Chris Ware-esque slackers, malcontents, navel-gazers, geeks, air-headed bimbos, losers, weirdos and general leftfield, left-behind types do it for you? Me either, really – these characters, in latterday cinema, tend to be sterotypes or ciphers, stick-on rent-a-whiners or just plain ridiculous. Mini Kurt Cobains in check shirts grumbling about their (normally not too shabby) lot or dopey girls that really belong in the latest Dawson’s Creek-alike but have been told to wear no make-up and look like they’ve got mild toothache.

In Adventureland, though, they all ring true and are at no point unlikeable, even the largely unlikeable ones. Adventureland being the fairground that Jesse Eisenberg stoops to in order to bankroll his college plans when his parents admit their finances are none too good. It’s a typical affair – con amusements and underpaid staff moping about, sharing misfortunes and anecdotes and dovetailing in and out of each others lives. What’s out of the ordinary is the fact that Kristen Stewart and Ryan Reynolds work here, the latter taking the former into his mother’s basement when the mood takes him. She likes Eisenberg, though, and a relationship kindles, threatening to go somewhere despite her reluctance and general discord (parent trouble). Reynolds drops a few rogue pieces of advice into chats with Eisenberg, Eisenberg pulls the cheerleader who fancies ‘normal guy for a change’, Eisenberg feels bad, Eisenberg gets wind of Reynolds mucking about with his beloved and it all goes sour, though not for long, obviously.

The last scene and shot are exactly right; the performances are perfectly underplayed and the musical touchstones and cinematography suitably evoke a time that never was but that you want to keep revisiting. Eisenberg is a slightly more winsome, appealing, humbly bumbling version of Michael Cera, Jon Heder is particularly wired but instantly endearing and Stewart is exceptional. Gregg Mottola deserves a great deal of credit for getting the balance between sunlit nostalgia and vitality right and the script is sharp but never arch; the gently disaffected protagonists are never submerged by the pervasive sense of summer nights long gone. Adventureland feels like a mish-mash of all the best contemporary indie comedy moments but stands alone as a teen film abundant with unassuming charm.

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