Friday 22 June 2012



James has just started working at 'Adventureland'. This probably isn't a stand out scene for many people -- I mean, not a lot happens, it's just a bunch of young people hanging around outside after work -- but it really resonates with me. Reminds me of being younger and working shitty jobs; and the only thing that makes it bearable is hanging around outside after work and laughing and talking. It's little moments like this which make it a special movie. 

Also the subtle way that Em & James connect in this scene -- it's so real! 

7. LISA P IS BACK & "Tops".

Maybe it's the music. The Rolling Stones - Tops, one of my favourite songs. Don't you just LOVE that song!? And Lisa P comes around the corner -- that's another thing that makes the crappy job bearable, the hot girls! Without them how would you survive? And again; it's dumb-subtle things that make me love this movie. Like in this scene; there's just something pathetic and lonely about the characters. They're in their lame 'Games Games Games' t-shirts, working jobs they hate, watching their youth passing by. 


They're listening to James' 'bummer songs mix tape'; and the track is 'Pale Blue Eyes'; they look miserable as hell! But what a moment. James is looking at Em, trying to figure her out. That's all you ever do when you're that age; look at people and try figure them out. It's clear that Em is going through something. James is in love, no denying it. "Can we go somewhere?" he asks, "yeah," she responds. So they park up under the bridge and get out of the car. 

James has the tiniest moment to think about it, then bolts after her-- he's so fast off the mark that the camera struggles to keep up -- it's a wonderful moment, so real. He goes for the kiss. She's taken aback.  Great moment. 

The scene after is great, too; Joel is completely jealous -- it's not so much what he says, it's the tone of his voice and the look in his eye. Those small and quiet awkward jealousies -- you remember them? I mean, I still get them now; but when you're younger, they're so painful and shape half of your existence! 

I love how Martin Starr (who played Joel) acted those moments. I asked Greg Mottola about it recently, he said: "
That was something that I talked about with Martin Starr, but never really made explicit in the writing. That's the kind of texture of life that I remember, as opposed to turning it into melodrama."


James and Lisa P are getting high. They're having deep conversations, but they're not making much sense, because they're so HIGH! And they're sitting somewhere out in the back of the Adventureland park. The sun is disappearing as it turns into night; and it's just one of those amazing moments that you can't plan --- finding a quiet little spot, having a conversation and watching the world go by.

Again, it's just a subtle thing -- no drama, no action, no tension -- it's just a moment. How often do you get those moments in movies? How often do you get them in life? In films, you get them occasionally in 'Adventureland', or 'Before Sunrise', or maybe a Cameron Crowe movie. But when else? I crave them. As for life; these moments get harder and harder to come across - everyone is so locked in to their devices, to their schedules. Throwing away the plans and indulging in THE MOMENT is one of the best things about life --- and that is exactly----- EXACTLY what this movie is about.


James is heading to New York. He arrives on a bus, and the streets are rainswept. It would be miserable if you allowed it to be miserable, but James is FREE, and he's living LIFE! You see that subtle smile on his face? It's like 'YEAH, I'm in NEW YORK!' --- I get that EXACT look, that precise feeling -- and the funny thing is that, when I arrive in New York, there's every chance I'm listening to 'Unsatisfied' by The Replacements in my headphones, which is what makes this moment resonate with me even more. 


Joel gets hit in the face. James stands up for him and punches the guy. Then he realises, holy shit, this guy is much bigger than me! A chase pursues and James eventually makes it back to the main office -- where his bosses are doing some paperwork. Bobby (Bill Hader) knows exactly what to do. It's one of those pure movie moments, absolute magic. Highly unrealistic; but because it's a flick, you go with it. He picks up his baseball bat and heads outside to take on the thugs. "Just give me one good reason! You don't know what I'm capable of!" Then he heads back to the office, as if nothing happened. 


Bumper cars! They're smiling! They're young! The camera-work is dizzying, and The Cure's 'Just Like Heaven' sounds triumphant! This scene just takes me directly back to every single moment of my life that's ever been FUN! 


I didn't even like this song before I saw the movie, I always found it annoying! Now it's one of my favourites. How to describe why I like it? It's near impossible. Like in so much of this movie, nothing happens; it's just a feeling, a moment; a slice of life. 

James, Em & Joel are hanging out -- it's thanksgiving; and then the fireworks start just as the Crowded House song 'Don't Dream It's Over' is beginning -- and there's Joel again, looking on jealously. Ouch! I know that look, I lived that. And then there's James and Em, looking up at the sky and then, for that small moment, the whole universe makes sense. I know that feeling, too! 

Ohhhh man, I just relate to it! It resonates! Reminds me of myself, my youth, those moments that meant so much but are now consigned to history, just like the era this movie is set in. What did it all mean? How much of it do you carry with you? How likely are we to find these connections again?

It's an age thing. One day you're in the moment every single darn second, and then before you know it, you're grown up and numb. 

This scene is magic. And I'm doing a terrible job of explaining why, it's just some kind of alchemy. A director who trusted himself enough to make it about the little things; and actors who are comfortable enough to just live the moment, to make it about the tiny glances. 

Care to share?


  1. After reading your posts about this film for a while, I remember watching it a few months ago and liking it. I just saw it on Netflix again a few days ago and had to download that Crowded House song.

    I love this post and was surprised how that movie slipped by me until I read about it on here. I love your enthusiasm for this movie.

    1. It's the kind of movie that does slip by people, and it was marketed so badly. Check out the interview with Mottola, I think we talked about this!

  2. I probably have the same top three moments Adventureland: those two songs are so, so perfect for the nostalgic summer night aesthetic that this movie (those scenes in particular) taps into so perfectly. Honestly, this movie is probably one of my ten or twenty favorites ever, and it's completely because of the little things and the feelings they evoke. It's just about the perfect youthful love story.

    1. I love it when people love this movie as much as I do!

    2. It's a shame it never got the attention it deserved, because I think it could be truly resonant for a lot of people. And everyone writes of Kristen Stewart these days (I myself have been guilty of it), but I wouldn't have anyone else in that role.