Monday, May 25, 2009
In 2007 writer/director Greg Mottola brought us Superbad, a raunchy 80's style buddy comedy set in the present that surprised everyone with it's unexpected depth. I mean, it wasn't a Robert Bresson flick, but it wasn't just a one-note pee pee and ta ta joke movie either. What he did well there, he did better here. This 2009 flick isn't about high schooler's but it's still about akward virgins lamenting their hometown. This time the main character is a very smart guy, James, played very well by Jesse Eisenberg who I for one have never heard of and didn't recognize despite having seen several of his prior movies. Jesse finished undergrad and planned to spend the summer in Europe before heading to Columbia in the fall for grad school. Suddenly he finds out that his parents aren't planning on helping him pay for Columbia and he didn't get any scholarships. So he scraps his Europe plans and decides to spend the summer making and saving up money for New York. Problem is, he's never worked a day in his life and has a degree in something like medieval philosophy. Basically, he can't find work and ends up accepting the only offer given, to work as a carnie. As the summer wears on the experience goes from being a borderline insult to one of the best of his life. Now that may seem like many movies you've seen before and, it's true, none of the elements here are really all that original. But the movie has a vibe that feels very genuine and natural. I'm not sure what it is, but the movie just seems to exist and you just happen to be seeing what really happened in that summer of '87. Even the in-jokes about 80's style don't come off as easy default jokes. It could come from the fact that this is a semi-autobiographical piece, as Mottola worked at a place called Adventure land in rural New York in the 80's in much the same manner as James. I guess what I mean is, you believe the characters and the story. That's not easy to do and it keeps this flick from being just another story about a guy/girl who works at a crappy job and ends up learning life lessons and 'truly' finding themselves. The movie is almost like someone covering a song we've all heard before but doing it in a way that makes it worth the listen. Plus, watching Kristen Wiig spend the whole movie in 'mom jeans' and a side pony tail is worth the price of admission. It's a simple flick that is an easy watch and will bring you back to your days as a young person in the 80's watching movies like Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing.