August 24, 2009

Now on DVD: "Adventureland"

One of the better movies of 2009, "Adventureland," comes out on DVD on Tuesday. Here's my full review from The American Conservative:
Mid-20th Century American writers competed on their dust flaps to list the most jobs held. The more proletarian occupations an author enumerated, such as short order cook, hod carrier, or lobsterman, the more legitimate was his assault on the Great American Novel.

Today, however, a generation of the well-educated has grown up assuming “there are jobs Americans just won’t do.” “Adventureland,” a witty, nostalgic love story is set in the summer of 1987, about the time when tuition started being inflated so high by competitive elitism and unskilled wages pounded so low by illegal immigration that “summer job” was increasingly replaced in the upper middle class vocabulary by “unpaid internship.” (By now, a few parents are paying fashionable employers to let their kids make photocopies and fetch coffee.)

A new Oberlin graduate, James Brennan, has his costly Eurail Pass backpack tour canceled by his parents because his alcoholic father’s executive career is wobbling. Suddenly needing a summer job to pay for tuition in the fall at the Columbia Journalism School, he finds that a resume featuring his SAT scores and his Renaissance Studies major doesn’t compensate for his lack of any work experience. Nobody in Greater Pittsburgh, it turns out, needs a fresco restored. He winds up at the employer of last resort, the Adventureland amusement park.

Writer-director Greg Mottola, who helmed 2007’s comedy hit “Superbad,” explains the origin of his quasi-autobiographical film with an ingenuous snobbishness that would have annoyed and amused John Steinbeck. “I was talking with a bunch of writer friends, 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 … It was the worst job I’ve ever had… 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.”

Please note that Mottola isn’t, personally, a jerk. Judging from “Adventureland,” he’s an insightful yet gentle observer. That’s just the way people think nowadays.

For Mottola’s alter ego, this dreaded “worst job in the world” laboring in a workplace where many employees lack four-digit SAT scores turns out to be the best summer of James’s life. Played by Jesse Eisenberg as a continuation of his role in 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale” as a romantic but overly verbal intellectual who can’t help blurting out his innermost feelings at awkward moments, James is the first young male in recent movies who isn’t in a particular rush to lose his virginity. He seems to share Freud’s pride in the discreet passion of the bourgeoisie: “Why don’t we fall in love with someone new every month? Because every breakup tears away a piece of our heart.”

James’s goofy charm catches the eye of two beauties working at the park. Em (Kristen Stewart of “Twilight”) is a Jewish NYU student who is avenging herself on her lawyer father for remarrying after her mother’s death by sleeping with the amusement park’s handsome but married electrician (Ryan Reynolds). And Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) is a Catholic working class girl whose religion-dictated virginity enables her to date her many admirers without losing her heart to any.

Mottola, now 44, directed episodes of comedy godfather Judd Apatow’s failed 2001 TV series “Undeclared.” Until Apatow’s 2005 breakthrough with “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” Mottola’s career was idling. (His press kit biography concludes, “He hopes someday to have a better bio.”)

Like so many other underlings of Apatow, such as Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, he’s done well when finally given a chance. The sudden success of Apatow’s boys is reminiscent of the famous cohort of writers who graduated from Eton in 1920-22: George Orwell, Anthony Powell, Henry Green, Cyril Connolly, Harold Acton, and Ian Fleming. Were they that individually talented? Or did it help to know each other?

Without Apatow’s oversight this time, Mottola’s “Adventureland” is notably less vulgar than “Superbad” (which Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote): Mottola’s new movie takes very seriously the dictum that love stories are most romantic before consummation. Granted, it’s also less funny than “Superbad,” but better overall. One caveat: like most indie films today, it’s directed by a writer, so it’s not the visual experience it could have been if it had been entrusted to a 1980s-style music video idiot savant.

Rated R for language, nonstop marijuana use, and sexual references.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Recently I took my nephews to a famous amusement park for a few days - boy did we have a blast.

And the whole town was bursting at the seams with drop-dead gorgeous Eastern European chicks [Poland, Russia, Germany, etc] who came over to work the summer rush.

Larry, San Francisco said...

Maybe it is a coast thing. In the Bay area almost all low paying jobs are held by non-whites whose English is marginal. I was back in the midwest though and I noticed that most of these jobs were held by young middle class white people. I think if you are young and want to have a lousy job in your experience, go to Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Good to know I am not the last person in the United States to use the word 'vulgar.' I probably just use it more than anyone else.

PR

Anonymous said...

I think if you are young and want to have a lousy job in your experience, go to Wisconsin.

So what would be an example of a "good" job for a "young" person?

testing99 said...

There's been a lot of pushback on the Zach Braff/Garden State to Apatow Schlub who "gets the girl." A lot of commenters think the whole thing is tremendously stupid.

The nice, smart, "winsome" guy does NOT win the girl nor does the schlub. It does not even pass the suspension of disbelief (looking at you Michael Cera) and the story of "losing the girl" ala 500 Days of Summer with Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems more appropriate and seems to have touched a number of bio-con comments. It is noteworthy that Apatow's latest, where Sandler plays not "one of the guys A-hole" but famous celebrity type A-hole, who attempts to break up a married couple with kids to claim his old flame, did poorly (particularly it seems among Sandler's more tradition-minded fans).

I don't know where the bildungsroman version of movies will come from, there seems little to create a coming-of-age experience in modern American life now. I.E. young men coming to grips with the reality of (rather than fairy tales of) death, sex, love, romance, and who they are (classic bildungsroman). For women there is (or probably, was) the fashion industry (now probably collapsing). For young men ... the cube farm? The only thing there is the TPS cover sheets.

Anonymous said...

It was the worst job I’ve ever had… 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.”

Please note that Mottola isn’t, personally, a jerk. Judging from “Adventureland,” he’s an insightful yet gentle observer. That’s just the way people think nowadays.


I love this review, but I don't get this part. I don't see where wishing you had a better job is jerk thinking even on a superficial level. With two master's degrees, a job in data entry, and 25 years left until retirement (age), I sort of feel like Mottola, and I'm not really sure if that makes me come off like a jerk.

Of course, wondering if I come off like a jerk is classic beta behavior, guaranteeing failure. If I really wanted to make "it", I'd be in a permanent hissy fit about how herbs make me so darn mad. Then I'd be as manly and successful as Roissy.

Yippee. Hooray.

jeremy d. said...

Steve this is OT, but a commenter at the OneSTDV blog said that you were half-Jewish. I think I vaguely recall you mentioning that you had some Jewish ancestry, but I wasn't sure if it was half. I'm not an anti-semite or anything like that, just curious. I hope you don't take this as rude or anything.

Anthony Blanche said...

I love the writers of the "Brideshead Generation" that you cited (adding the ones who weren't Old Etonians). They must have been shaped by the experience of watching the First World War, expecting to have to fight themselves and suddenly being saved from it. From their later heroics in the Spanish Civil War and World War Two, they also seemed to have something to prove.

Bill said...

My summer jobs weren't great, but I never thought of them as "bad." Carpenter's assistant, bakery deliveryman, messenger... All had their good points.

The sad thing is that now I doubt many American kids could even get those jobs.

I really can't believe this internship scam, either. Maybe I should get a publication going so I can "hire" an intern to run errands all day for free.

Back in the 90s, when I was doing summer jobs, I would have laughed at the idea of working for free. It's really amazing what's happened in such a short time, isn't it?

Beastmaster said...

On second thought, please don't post that. Thanks very dearly.

stari_momak said...

One of the best jobs I ever had was a 'bad' job -- or make that two jobs --kitchen prep and also potwasher at my uni's faculty restaurant. It wasn't something super manly, but it did give me a feeling of satisfaction and putme in contact with peopel I ordinarily wouldn't be in contact with.

The problem with writing today, and especially punditry today, is these people have never done anything to write about and never held a real job where you do physical work.

BTW even in California, if you go to In'n'Out, you can see white folks (or whatever the neighborhood looks like, doing a 'bad' job -- In-n-oiut pays decently, so it has 20 year olds natives working for it rather than 35 year old illegals making minimum and with 3 kids in the school system.

Nick said...

Thinking that working as a carny is terrible is indeed a jerky thing to do because Mottola's situation is in no way analogous to yours Anonymous. He wasn't a college educated man trying to make a living, he was a kid or college student trying earn some money during the summer. (Or, that certainly appears to be the case from the anecdote.) He was never going to be doing this for the rest of his life, it's just that's it's so, eww, unfashionable to be a carny, or any other kind of menial but real job. And to say, twenty years after the fact, when you're a successful director, that you're embarrassed that you once did regular work, well that's total dick behavior.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Motolla thought that not
have a "good" job for the resume
was going to set his career path
back. Not jerky, rather rational.

There is almost no way to work
ones way up in any company today.
You either come in credentialled
or you don't.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with being a carny?

It seems like it would be a wonderful opportunity for a young person to learn how to interact with people, how to judge people & size them up, how to talk to people, how to wheedle and cajole and psychologize, with a near-endless opportunity to practice the rhythm and cadence of the delivery of your jokes...

And amusement parks are always chock-full of hot chicks.

Same thing for restaurant work: You hit on the hostesses, you hit on the waitresses, you hit on the chicks who work in the kitchen, you hit on the chicks who work in accounting, you hit on the chicks who work as salesgirls for the distributors, you hit on the customers - basically you hit on every skirt that walks through the front door [and you even hit on the skirts who enter through the service entrance out back - heck, I've hit on janitor (janitresse?) chicks who were young and nubile]. And when you're done with that, you hit on the owner's daughters and even his wife, if she's a cougar. I mean, seriously - you have the opportunity of a lifetime to build up a rolodex filled with the names of fine young waitress chicks and every night after work you get to go out partying with them until dawn? I just don't understand what the problem is supposed to be here.

Best jobs I ever had in my life involved entry-level scut-work b.s. manual labor, where I could actually get out & around & throughout the building to talk to people and interact with them and make acquaintanceships.

Beats the living daylights out of sitting in a cubicle and staring at a spreadsheet all day.



PS: If Komment Kontrol will allow me to revert to beta-male nerd-mode for a moment, I just noticed something absolutely fascinating:

scut work
Date: circa 1962

chock-full
Origin: 1350–1400

The English language never ceases to amaze me.

Muswell Hillbilly said...

Huh. I was undergrad from 1998-2002 at Berkeley. I had several of what I suppose would be considered lousy summer jobs by that standard.

I lived in the Berkeley student co-ops and did their general maintenance job for a summer. Might be the best job I had. I got to do demolition, roofing, wiring, drywall, light wood construction, insulation, etc.

For an effete liberal arts dilettante like me who felt like he had never really got his hands dirty, it was great. I had a tool belt and everything!

Fred said...

"There's been a lot of pushback on the Zach Braff/Garden State to Apatow Schlub who "gets the girl."

You've apparently got some insecurities about being Jewish to go along with your insecurities about being beta. My advice: worry about being beta. Confident, alpha Jews like Braff have zero trouble with women.

AR said...

"And the whole town was bursting at the seams with drop-dead gorgeous Eastern European chicks [Poland, Russia, Germany, etc] who came over to work the summer rush."

Great, the same Eastern Europeans who filled up all the jobs around my family's little summer shack in MA; so while my father worked as a grocer as a teen I had absolutely no chance. I don't care that they're white, NO THANKS!

anony-mouse said...

Maybe the Human Biodiversity Institute should have it own intern program.

That is if your wife agrees.

Matt G. said...

I don't care for Mottola's attitude towards low wage work, but I agree with Steve that that's just how people think today. I really enjoyed Adventureland and it's definitely worth seeing. It's head and shoulders above the awful teen movies that are typically made today.

Anonymous said...

"What's wrong with being a carny? And amusement parks are always chock-full of hot chicks."

Good points. I know nothing of being a carny first hand. However, my grandma said once some distant cousins worked as carnies and they eventually retired from the Midwest to Florida. My grandma seemed to think if you had the stomach to live on the road half/most of the year it was actually pretty good money.

-Vanilla Thunder

ironrailsironweights said...

John Derbyshire once got a quite interesting letter from a reader who actually had worked as a carny.

Peter

Glaivester said...

On the other hand, is Mottola's statement that "he should have had a good job" and that his job at Adventureland was beneath him supposed to be how he sees it now, or is he just stating the way he felt at the time - that is, he is describing the thought processes of an arrogant college student who thinks he owns the world, which is quite typical for that age.

I think if you are young and want to have a lousy job in your experience, go to Wisconsin.

So what would be an example of a "good" job for a "young" person?

I was under the impression that "lousy" was being used a little ironically, and perhaps affectionately here, to refer to menial labor in general. The goal wasn't to put down menial labor as much as it was to ironically refer to many people's atitude toward it.

Dave R. said...

Steve: off-topic and some curse words, but a movie review of Post Grad that touches briefly on your interests at http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42122

And then the unthinkable happens. She blows the interview. It’s not that she does anything wrong – she’s just…average. Of course she was an exceptional student with three big internships at other publishing houses. But so is everyone else that walks in through that editor’s door. This girl has nothing to distinguish her from any other candidate. No spark, no creativity. Just a nice resume and a rehearsed speech.

...I would have been fine with her becoming functionally unemployable the moment she stepped out of the public education system had it been the theme of the movie that she had spent so much time gaming the system that she never paid any attention to how things worked in the real world; but it isn’t – they just do it for comedy.

Anonymous said...

"And Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) is a Catholic working class girl whose religion-dictated virginity enables her to date her many admirers without losing her heart to any."

I'm going to have to watch the flick just to see how that is illustrated. I can't see a chick like that talking about her virginity in those terms (or any terms at all) in a contemporary movie.

Definitely sounds different.

beowulf said...

"there seems little to create a coming-of-age experience in modern American life now. I.E. young men coming to grips with the reality of (rather than fairy tales of) death, sex, love, romance, and who they are (classic bildungsroman)"

Well, that's only because we don't have a military draft anymore. In countries that still do, military service is the common rite of passage for young men (and young women too in Israel, which drafts both sexes).

Truth said...

Just a question here:

Do you, being (presumably) late 20's to late 40's middle class white guys get the whole Judd Aptow-Seth Rogan thing?

Carolyn said...

I don't know if not working minimum wage summer jobs in college has anything to do with middle class snobbery. It just doesn't make much financial sense. I went to college in the mid-1980s - '82-'86. I remember minimum wage in New York State being around $3.35 during that time. Assuming a 40 hr/wk summer job for 10 weeks you'd only made around $1300 before taxes. My alma mater, Syracuse University, was approaching $15K per year at that time so my earning from a summer job wouldn't have made that much of a difference financially that I couldn't make up from tutoring math (at twice minimum wage) during the school year. However, getting experience in your field is much more valuable come graduation time. I recall most of my classmates got internships or participated in a co-op program (like I did). Those who didn't had a much harder time getting a job come graduation.

Anonymous said...

I went to college in the mid-1980s - '82-'86. I remember minimum wage in New York State being around $3.35 during that time.

Yeah, but you shoulda seen the babes I got to know when I lifeguarded at my alma mater's outdoor swimming pool for $3.35/hr.

SMOKIN'.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the Berkeley student co-ops

CLOYNE REPRESENT

Anonymous said...

"Do you, being (presumably) late 20's to late 40's middle class white guys get the whole Judd Aptow-Seth Rogan thing?"

Uhh. Sort of but not entirely. Being a schmuck can be good for comedy. Unless you make a living at it like Rogan and Sandler, it's something you should grow out of. These movies have kind of a prolonged adolescent vibe to them. In reality it's somewhat, but not entirely humourous.

Not sure if this anwers you question Truth, but I think I know where you are coming from.

Truth said...

"Not sure if this anwers you question Truth, but I think I know where you are coming from."

Thanks, in their defense though, I think their vibe beats the holy hell out of the Will Farrell-Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller era. The one time I truly wondered if I was an alien from outer space, was sitting in the theatre watching "The Wedding Crashers" in a crowd that was laughing uproariously all the way through.

Anonymous said...

""Not sure if this anwers you question Truth, but I think I know where you are coming from."

Thanks, in their defense though, I think their vibe beats the holy hell out of the Will Farrell-Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller era. The one time I truly wondered if I was an alien from outer space, was sitting in the theatre watching "The Wedding Crashers" in a crowd that was laughing uproariously all the way through."

Once you get past the girl with the big breasts near the begining that film is just a bit s**te isn't it?

I have found a few of the WF/VV/BS films funny, but overall they are kind of dull. Often the funniest bits are peripheral to the plot and involve minor characters. For example, the awful children in Talladega Nights were far funnier than Will Ferrell despite it being his film. In fact despite it being subtitled the 'Ballad of Ricky Bobby' the main character was outstaged by the majority of the cast.

David said...

Anon. said

>Same thing for restaurant work: You hit on the hostesses, you hit on the waitresses, you hit on the chicks who work in the kitchen, you hit on the chicks who work in accounting, you hit on the chicks who work as salesgirls for the distributors, you hit on the customers - basically you hit on every skirt that walks through the front door<

What a joy you must have been to work with.

David said...

Glaivester said

>"he should have had a good job" [...] he is describing the thought processes of an arrogant college student who thinks he owns the world<

No, probably he is responding to parental pressure. How many elites want their kids flipping burgers? (You think he does?) Such things are for proles. We want better things for our kids, in Amurrica!

Ben said...

Jeremey D. mentioned the term "half Jewish," which is actually a common misconception and basically an oxymoron. The fact that someone is a Jew or not, comes from the mother ... NOT the father. In other words, if a Jewish woman marries a non Jewish man, any child born is 100% Jewish... On the other hand, if a Jewish man marries a non Jewish woman, any child born is NOT "half Jewish," but NOT Jewish at all!

Anonymous said...

To the poster regarding low wage jobs and hot chicks: you are dead-on! Only a loser idiot would chose an internship over the endless supply of beauties who work at restaurants, amusement parks or similar institutions.

When I was 26 I quit a high paying job to start my own company. It tanked. Out of depression I took a job working the lunch shift at some Tex-Mex place in San Diego. Greatest experience of my life. I have never had so much sex and found such eager women. Fantastic! No NYC internship can compare.

In college, I worked in a hotel as a desk clerk. Same story: horny people.

When young men worry about pushing paper more than girls, you know there is a problem.

Anonymous said...

"Jeremey D. mentioned the term "half Jewish," which is actually a common misconception and basically an oxymoron. The fact that someone is a Jew or not, comes from the mother ... NOT the father. In other words, if a Jewish woman marries a non Jewish man, any child born is 100% Jewish... On the other hand, if a Jewish man marries a non Jewish woman, any child born is NOT "half Jewish," but NOT Jewish at all!"

Those are the Jewish rules though and they are based on religion. Maybe some non-Jews see things differently.