(2009) dir. Greg Mottola
This “coming of age” movie set in 1987 in an amusement park to the tunes of college radio of the day tries hard to get the period and temperment right. Hard to argue with a soundtrack that includes Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Lou Reed and so forth. And its winsome protagonists, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale (2005)) and Kristen Stewart (Twilight (2008)), are mostly likable, though Stewart plays with her hair like its her only character trait and Eisenberg does lots of not looking people in the eye, over-sweetened nature are both single note characteristics.
Written and directed by Greg Mottola who directed the very funny Superbad (2007), this absolutely feels like a personal story, as “coming of age” stories are. I mean, everyone “comes of age” at some point in their life, and it’s often in the teenage to early 20’s age range, and is frequently (though hardly requisitely) the loss of sexual innocence as one of the key realizations and learned experience of maturity and worldliness. It’s all universal, in a sense, and yet the stories can be unique. Occasionally, they can be very telling.
In this case, it’s a tad flaccid. The setting is nice and I totally identify with the time period. I am probably 5 years younger than the characters in this film, so yeah, I was there. But Mottola populates his story with some fairly standard-issue characterizations, such as the park operators, played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, are supposed to be quirky and hilarious, but you just kind of sit there, unmoved, unlaughing (or at least I did). And the whole thing has a timid, lightweight feeling, dabbing at drama like you might expect from Noah Baumbach, attempting broader humor like Superbad, but doing nothing potently.
Even the editing feels out of whack. Scenes end with dull fade-outs, not flowing, not being poignant. It’s sentimental, romantic, while still a little dull and predictable. Eisenberg is likeable, cut from a similar cloth as Michael Cera (though far less funny), the quiet, intelligent, cute but shabby nice guy lead. And Stewart was far more appealing than I found her in Twilight. I was also a bit surprised by Ryan Reynolds, one of the new Hollywood buzz guys. He plays the philandering repairman, but interesting enough in his way, not made to be really bad, just a low-level lothario.
I consider this a mediocre film of the genre, and that is despite liking the music. The soundtrack is pretty cool, but that’s just because it’s a lot of music I like and already listen to. Not something I’d need to go and get. Familiarity in this case is an appreciation of like-minded taste, though nothing groundbreaking or unusual. True to the film itself.