Taglines: It was the worst job they ever imagined… and the best time of their lives.
Welcome to Adventureland, where the worst job imaginable is about to inadvertently turn into the summer that changes everything. Fresh on the heels of directing the runaway hit “Superbad,” writer-director Greg Mottola returns with a hilariously human, semi-autobiographical comedy about an uptight, overeducated young man whose lowly new “career” leads to the wildest ride of his life – a journey through puking kids, angst-filled co-workers and a dizzy-making romantic triangle — all the way to facing his own future with guts and optimism.
A funky, self-professedly “funtastic” Pennsylvania amusement park, Adventureland appears to be the bane of recent college graduate’s James Brennan’s (Jesse Eisenberg) existence. He previously had big plans to spend the summer on a life-altering trek through Europe that would initiate him into real adult life. But when his family suffers an economic downturn in the middle of the Reagan 80s, James’ only summer trip is straight to a minimum wage job manning a game booth so existentially bankrupt, no one is even allowed to win the giant-ass stuffed panda.
Yet Adventureland isn’t quite what it seems on the surface. For behind the cloying cotton candy aroma, the grating disco songs and the near-pathological customers, there’s a whole other world of misfit friends, hidden dreams and most incredibly, after-work encounters with the alluringly sharp-tongued arcade girl, Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart). And when James discovers the hard-won courage to go to battle for Em, the result is a savagely funny yet sweetly heart-felt and unexpected encounter with “real adult life.”
Adventureland is a 2009 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Mottola, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart and co-starring Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Martin Starr, and Margarita Levieva. The film is set in the summer of 1987 when recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is making big plans to tour Europe and attend graduate school in pursuit of a career in journalism. However, financial problems force him to look for a summer job instead of traveling abroad, which places him at Adventureland, a run-down amusement park in western Pennsylvania. There he meets Emily Lewin (Kristen Stewart), a co-worker with whom he develops a quick rapport and relationship.
About the Production
It’s a mad, mad world of Whack-A-Mole, Root Beer Pong and Horse Derby, but for James Brennan, the sweet, smart but strung-a-bit-too-tightly hero of ADVENTURELAND, his mortifying summer job at Adventureland amusement park is about to become a full-scale initiation into the sublime oddities and wonders of adult life. For even as he is propelled through a gauntlet of paltry paychecks, awkward situations, public humiliations and young lust, James gets an exhilarating first taste of true love that will give him something to believe in and finally kick his adulthood into high gear.
The idea for a merging a facing-adulthood comedy with a job-from-hell horror movie and turning the combo into a frank and funny love story with all the kick and sweetness of a pop song came from the mind – not to mention the past – of writer-director Greg Mottola, who himself worked in a Long Island amusement park while going to Columbia University in the late 1980s.
Since then, Mottola has, of course, taken a different career path. He came to the fore in 1997 by writing and directing the acclaimed indie comedy “The Daytrippers,” the wry recounting of a family road-trip to unravel the mystery behind a shocking love letter. That film went on to win the Grand Jury prize at Slamdance; the Special Recognition for Excellence in Filmmaking from the National Board of Review; and numerous other accolades. Mottola then began a fateful partnership with the high-flying comic team of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, directing several episodes of their Fox television show “Undeclared,” which led in turn to his directing the riotously raunchy yet true-to-life high school comedy “Superbad,” which Rogen wrote and Apatow produced.
With ADVENTURELAND, Mottola heads into an even more raw and honest style of comedy, this time based on the sweetly painful truth of his own post-college coming-of age. “The idea came to me when I was talking with a bunch of writer friends,” recalls Mottola, “and I was telling them these embarrassing stories about a summer in the ’80s that I spent as a carnie working at an amusement park on Long Island. It was the worst job I’d ever had, working in a booth where people shoot water into a clown’s mouth. My friend, Jenny Connor, thought they were funny stories, and she said I should write about them. I’d never really considered it before that.”
Once he began to explore the idea, though, Mottola saw there was something there, something beyond just the absurdity of a highly educated young man handing out stuffed bunnies and subsisting on corn dogs. He saw the potential for a rousing, comic love story – one set in the rarely explored limbo between the fast times of high school and the descent into adult responsibility, a time when innocence and idealism are at battle with the realities of life, love and earning a living.
“It’s about a young guy who thinks his life is supposed to be something else, and what happens to him when he first enters some semblance of the real world in this very ridiculous job,” the writer-director explains. “The movie fits into this very small genre of stories that are about the worst summer ever turning into one of the most transformative experiences of your life.”
Throughout writing the screenplay, Mottola was inspired by his very own Adventureland – the one in Long Island, where he himself experienced several initiating encounters with the traumas and triumphs of growing up, and falling head over heels, on the job. “What I loved about the park is that it was a little rough around the edges, a kind of misfit world, and that’s the feeling I wanted to retain in the storytelling,” he notes.
That feeling, redolent as it was with the humor and aching truth of early adulthood and first serious romantic relationships, immediately captured producers Ted Hope and Anne Carey when they read Mottola’s screenplay. With a love of original, iconoclastic voices, Hope and Carey most recently produced the award-winning “The Savages” and Alan Ball’s screen adaptation of “Towelhead,” and they had been following Mottola’s career since before “The Daytrippers.” They were drawn to the idea for ADVENTURELAND and its conversational style that seemed to so wittily and warmly capture the way young adults really talk and, even more so, really feel.
“Immediately, we were both taken by the humanity of the characters,” says Hope. “Although there are a large number of major characters, they each have a wonderful and complete arc to them. Greg’s aesthetic is about loving and celebrating human foibles. He doesn’t make fun of any of his characters; he just reveals their faults along with their appeal.”
Adds Carey: “We loved the sense of humor, which is both sweet and smart at the same time. It’s so hard to find humor that isn’t overly broad or coarse or dumb, and the laughs in Greg’s screenplay felt real and fresh to us.”
It was Hope and Carey who suggested to Mottola that he allow James Brennan to be a notquite- ready-for-the-real-world college graduate. “It was a very good suggestion and also entirely true, because I was in college when I worked at the amusement park,” comments Mottola. “I should have had a good job—I should have been a tutor or gone to Manhattan and been an intern at a magazine or something respectable—but no, I was working for minimum wage, handing out stuffed animals to drunk people. And there’s something about doing that when you’re not really a teenager anymore that makes it more unsettling.”
After developing the screenplay, Mottola was just about to dive into production of ADVENTURELAND when he received a proposition, one he couldn’t refuse, from Judd Apatow asking him to direct “Superbad.” Hope and Carey gave him their blessing. “He told us it was just a minor job, that it was nothing,” recalls Carey. “He said it was a movie about a couple of guys trying to buy beer and it wasn’t likely to amount to anything.”
Continue Reading and View the Theatrical Trailer
Directed by: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Paige Howard, Wendie Malick, Kristen Wiig, Kevin Breznahan, Margarita Levieva, Marc Grapey, Eric Schaeffer, Mary Birdsong
Screenplay by: Greg Mottola, Adam Kroloff
Production Design by: Stephen Beatrice
Cinematography by: Terry Stacey
Film Editing by: Anne McCabe
Costume Design by: Melissa Toth
Set Decoration by: Cristina Casanas
Art Direction by: Matthew Munn
Music by: Yo La Tengo
MPAA Rating: R for langage, drug use and sexual references.
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Release Date: March 27, 2009