Adventureland (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGreg Mottola
Produced bySidney Kimmel
Anne Carey
Ted Hope
Written byGreg Mottola
Music byYo La Tengo
CinematographyTerry Stacey
Edited byAnne McCabe
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • April 3, 2009 (2009-04-03)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.8 million[1]
Box office$17.2 million[2]

Adventureland is a 2009 American 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.

Released on April 3, 2009, the film received positive reviews and earned $17.1 million worldwide at the box office. It was nominated for "Best Ensemble Cast Performance" at the 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards.


In 1987, James Brennan plans to have a summer vacation in Europe after graduating with a comparative literature degree from Oberlin College and to attend a journalism graduate school at Columbia University when his summer ends. A few days after his graduation, his parents advise him to seek a part-time job rather than going to Europe when they unexpectedly announce that financial problems have taken a toll on them and they would be unable to financially support him.

James gets a job at Adventureland, a local amusement park in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his childhood friend Tommy Frigo works. Assistant manager Bobby assigns James to the games area. He meets his co-workers: the sarcastic Joel; Bobby's wife and park manager Paulette; Sue O'Malley; Mark; the alluring Lisa P.; and the park's technician, Mike Connell, a part-time musician. Another games worker, Emily "Em" Lewin, saves James from being stabbed by a lying, cheating customer.

With her father and stepmother away, Em throws a party and gets to know James. During the conversation, Em persuades James to join her in the house's swimming pool. After Em leaves the pool, James follows only to jump back into the water in humiliation when Frigo announces to the partygoers that he saw James having an erection while leaving the pool. After the party, Connell, who has been having an affair with Em, comes over to further pursue it.

Later that week, James gives Em his mixtape of "J's Favorite Bummer Songs" and asks her out for a drink. At the Stardust Lounge she is surprised to learn James has never had sex. They listen to his mixtape and share a first kiss on the way home. The following day, James tells Connell about his strong feelings for Em, which Connell reports to her. Em tells James she wants to take things slow due to problems in her life, leaving James confused and upset. Meanwhile, Sue drunkenly makes out with Joel, but rejects him the next day, saying her Catholic parents would not allow her to date a Jew. Outraged, Em calls Sue an anti-Semite in front of other staff members in defense of Joel. Lisa P. asks James on a date, but he has mixed feelings because of his relationship with Em. After Connell talks him into going, he accepts Lisa P.'s offer.

After the date, during which Lisa and James kiss, James learns Em had called to say she regrets having rejected his feelings. Joel later sees James and Em walking together and, irritated by the chain of events, quits. James unsuccessfully tries to talk him out of it, and Joel reveals he's angry at James for dating Lisa P. when James is already in love with Em. James tells Em about going out with Lisa P. After hearing of this, Em goes to Connell's mother's home to end their affair. The park's mentally challenged parking attendant, prompted by Tommy, tells James he saw Em and Connell doing "pushups without any pants on" in the back of Connell's car.

James goes to Connell's mother's house, which is where Lisa P. told him earlier that Connell takes girls to have sex and sees Em leaving. Shocked to see James, Em becomes tongue-tied. James leaves angrily, and Em cries. James tells Lisa P. about the affair and asks her not to tell anyone, but she tells her friend Kelly. Upon noticing that all the park employees know, Em quits and moves back to New York. A heartbroken James drunkenly crashes his father's car into a tree and passes out. The next morning, his mother angrily wakes him up and tells him he has to pay to repair it with his summer earnings. On top of that, James' friend from Oberlin, Eric who he had initially planned on moving to New York with, calls to let him know that he will not be going to Columbia and instead will be attending Harvard Business School, thus canceling their living arrangements.

Now, without enough money for graduate school or a place to live, James nonetheless heads to New York City with his parents' blessing and waits outside Em's apartment in the rain. She is reluctant to talk to him, feeling she has ruined everything. James tells her he sees her in a different way than she sees herself. Touched, Em brings James up to her apartment. James reveals he will work, then attend Columbia University next year. He gets out of his wet clothes and Em offers him an Adventureland T-shirt. They kiss and begin to take their clothes off. James asks, "Are we doing this?", and Em says, "I think so."


  • Jesse Eisenberg as James Brennan, a recent college graduate who majored in Comparative Literature and Renaissance Studies. He is an aspiring journalist who has to get a summer job so he can afford to go to Columbia University in New York. The only job he can get is in the games at the Adventureland theme park. He is a virgin and occasional marijuana smoker. Throughout his summer working in Adventureland, Brennan develops a relationship with his co-worker, Emily "Em" Lewin.
  • Kristen Stewart as Em Lewin (Emily), one of James' Adventureland co-workers and love interest. She has a troubled home life; she hates her stepmother and resents her father for remarrying so soon after her mother's death from cancer. She is a student at NYU. She doesn't need to work, as her father is a rich lawyer, but she works in the games at the theme park to get out of the house. She is secretly having an affair with the park's maintenance man, Mike Connell, but eventually calls it off, and quits Adventureland after her affair becomes public knowledge.
  • Ryan Reynolds as Mike Connell, the park's maintenance man, married to a woman named Ronnie. He is also a part-time musician who claims to have jammed with Lou Reed. Through slips in his musical knowledge, it becomes apparent to James that this is not true. He has cheated on his wife with different girls and, by the beginning of the story, with Em.
  • Martin Starr as Joel, one of James' co-workers at the games in Adventureland and James' friend in the summer. A college graduate in Russian literature and Slavic languages, a degree which he claims will get him a job as a "cabbie, hot dog vendor," or "marijuana delivery guy." He eventually quits the park after being attacked by a disgruntled customer and leaves Pittsburgh to head for an undisclosed location. He enjoys smoking a pipe, although he calls it a "revolting affectation."
  • Margarita Levieva as Lisa P., one of the rides operators at the Adventureland park. A seductive girl to whom all the park's employees are attracted. Her father was injured and is now unable to work, and she bonds with James after he shows some sympathy for her. She invites James out on a date, but he leaves her to go back with Em. She eventually tells her friends at Adventureland that Em is having an affair with Connell, a secret she told James she would not reveal.
  • Kristen Wiig as Paulette, Bobby's wife and manager of Adventureland. She is often as much more quiet than her husband.
  • Bill Hader as Bobby, the assistant manager of Adventureland. He is extremely intolerant of people who litter but is very supportive of his employees and caring for his wife.
  • Matt Bush as Tommy Frigo, James' childhood best friend; though they aren't good friends any more, James still manages to tolerate Frigo's immaturity and cruelty. Frigo constantly teases James and hits him in the testicles, repeatedly, often bringing him to his knees in pain. He even goes so far as to blackmail James about his date with Lisa P. At the end of the film, James hits Frigo in the testicles first for once before heading off to New York, finally getting his revenge.
  • Wendie Malick as Mrs. Brennan, James' mother. She is the one that lets James know they can't help them pay for his trip for graduate school. She supplies the discipline of the two parents. However at the end of the film, she decides to let James go off to New York City.
  • Jack Gilpin as Mr. Brennan, James' father. He loses his job and transfers to a different office. He is an alcoholic, but he tries to hide his drinking from his family. James finds a bottle of scotch underneath his dad's car seat, and he drinks the bottle while driving and crashes into his neighbor's tree. He doesn't tell his mother that the bottle belonged to his father.
  • Paige Howard as Sue O’Malley, Pete's sister, another of the young workers at Adventureland. Makes out with Joel one drunken night, then harshly dumps him by claiming religious differences.
  • Dan Bittner as Pete O’Malley, Sue's brother, another of the young workers at Adventureland. He hits on Lisa P., who is unimpressed and asks out James in front of him.
  • Josh Pais as Mr. Lewin, Em's father and Francy's husband. He met Francy at temple while his first wife was slowly dying in the hospital. He married Francy, soon after Em's mother died.
  • Mary Birdsong as Francy, Em's stepmother. She married Em's father shortly after the death of Em's mother. After her first divorce, she lost her hair from the stress of a nervous breakdown and wears a wig. Em says that if she were not a "status-obsessed witch", she might feel bad for her.
  • Barrett Hackney as Munch, another of the young workers at Adventureland.
  • Michael Zegen as Eric, James’ friend, gone for most of the summer. James plans to split the rent on an apartment with him when they move to New York City.


Adventureland was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from October 2007 to December 2007, or possibly until January 2008,[3][4][5] with most scenes shot in Kennywood, a historic amusement park in nearby West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. The park was "heavily" altered to look run-down.[6] The theme park from the film is based on the Farmingdale, New York amusement park Adventureland where Mottola once worked in the 1980s. The scenes of the family home were filmed in a neighborhood named Fox Ridge located in the town of McCandless, a suburb still within Allegheny County and approximately 12 miles north of the city of Pittsburgh. Other scenes were shot in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and the airport area of Moon Township such as the Stardust Lounge.

The story takes place during the summer, but since it was shot in the winter months in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, crews had to often hide snowfall. In some instances, during indoor takes, extras were paid to stand outside surrounding the windows and doors to block the snow falling behind the actors.


The film premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival[7] and went on general release on April 3, 2009. The film was also screened at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival.[8]

Critical response[edit]

Adventureland received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 89% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 210 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Full of humor and nostalgia, Adventureland is a sweet, insightful coming-of-age comedy that will resonate with teens and adults alike".[9] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote: "What surprised me was how much I admired Kristen Stewart, who in "Twilight," was playing below her grade level. Here is an actress ready to do important things. Together, and with the others, they make Adventureland more real and more touching than it may sound."[11] Variety's Todd McCarthy wrote: "A rather ordinary account of youthful summer misadventures that goes down easily thanks to a sparky cast, more than 40 pop tunes that anchor the action in the late '80s and characters who get high both on and off their jobs at a tacky amusement park."[12]

Box office[edit]

In its first week at the box office, Adventureland opened moderately wide in only 1,862 screens grossing $5.7 million ranking #6 at the box office. Despite opening up in fourteen more screens in its second week Adventureland only took in $3.4 million, falling to #9 at the box office. The film concluded its U.S. domestic run on May 28, 2009 with a gross of $16,044,025 and a total international gross of $17,164,377[2][13]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for the Gotham Independent Film Awards "Best Ensemble Cast", scheduled in New York City on November 30, 2009.[14]

Adventureland was the winner of High Times magazine's 2009 Stoner Movie of the Year Award. Kristen Stewart also received High Times' 2009 Stonette of the Year Award, due in part to her performance in the film.[15]

Jesse Eisenberg was nominated for Favorite Male Breakthrough Performance at the Teen Choice Awards for his performance and also for his work in Zombieland.

Home media[edit]

The film was released August 25, 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray with unrated bonus features.[16]


A total of 41 songs were licensed for use in the film.[17] The soundtrack includes 14 songs and was released on April 1, 2009 by Hollywood Records. The songs included are mostly from the 1980s, to fit with the setting of the film, with several tracks from the late 1960s and early 1970s, most notably by The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls and cult darlings Big Star. The '80s bands represent a cross section of alternative bands from the time including Hüsker Dü, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Nick Lowe, The Cure, The Replacements, Crowded House and Black Swan Lane.

The film maintains a notable reverence for Lou Reed, who is idolized by the main character, featured on T-shirts and posters of other cast members and has likewise elevated the status of the playground mechanic stemming from a rumored jam session with the artist. Earlier versions of the script replaced Lou Reed with singer-songwriter Neil Young as the musician Ryan Reynolds's character had played with, and used Young's songs "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)" in key scenes.

Adventureland - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No.TitleWriter(s)Location where played in the filmLength
1."Satellite of Love"Lou ReedPlayed while Connell drives with James to help his mother3:39
2."Modern Love"David BowiePlayed in amusement park at 11:033:56
3."I'm in Love with a Girl"Big StarPlayed during Em's party1:47
4."Just Like Heaven"The CurePlayed during the bumper car sequence3:31
5."Rock Me Amadeus"FalcoPlayed frequently over the amusement park speakers, to most of the characters' annoyance3:18
6."Don't Change"INXSPlayed over the credits4:26
7."Your Love"The OutfieldPlayed when Joel attempts to ask Sue out3:42
8."Don't Dream It's Over"Crowded HousePlayed during the fireworks scene at 41:463:54
9."Looking for a Kiss"New York DollsPlayed during Em's party3:18
10."Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely"Hüsker DüPlays as Em gives James a ride home3:30
11."Unsatisfied"The ReplacementsPlayed as James arrives in Manhattan4:00
12."Pale Blue Eyes"Velvet Underground sung by Lou ReedPlayed at 33:42 - 1st track on J's Favorite Bummer Songs mixtape5:28
13."Farewell Adventureland"Yo La Tengo 3:40
14."Adventureland Theme Song"Brian Kenney & Ian Berkowitz 0:33
Adventureland - Additional Songs
No.TitleWriter(s)Location where played in the filmLength
1."Obsession"AnimotionCharacters dance to this in the Razzmatazz club 
2."In the Ether"Black Swan Lane  
3."Point of No Return"ExposéPlay in the Razzmatazz club at 49:15 
4."Taste of Cindy acoustic version"The Jesus and Mary Chain  
5."Breaking the Law"Judas PriestPlays as James is chased through the park by an angry patron 
6."In My House"Mary Jane GirlsPlays when James and Lisa P are in the Razzmatazz club at 1:20:44 
7."So It Goes"Nick LoweRecord played by Connell when he and Em meet at his mothers house 
8."I Want Action"PoisonVideo played on TV in Em's room 
9."Bastards of Young"The ReplacementsPlayed during the opening sequence 
10."Tops"The Rolling StonesPlayed in the scene "Lisa P is back" at 27:11 
11."Limelight"RushMunch, one of the games workers, does a poor rendition in an attempt to impress Em, also included in the trailer 
12."Let the Music Play"ShannonPlays as Lisa P dances in front of a thrill ride at 45:25 
13."Here She Comes Now"The Velvet UndergroundPlays during opening credits, 5:05, as James's moves back home for the summer. 
14."Blister in the Sun"Violent FemmesUsed in the trailer 
15."Dance Hall Days"Wang Chung  
16."Here I Go Again"Whitesnake  


  1. ^ "Adventureland (2009) - Financial Information". Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  2. ^ a b "Adventureland (2009)". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ Tiech, John (2012-07-17). Pittsburgh Film History: On Set in the Steel City. ISBN 9781614235897.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Kaleem Aftab (December 21, 2007). "Adventureland News". IGN Entertainment. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  7. ^ "Adventureland 2009 Sundance Film Festival Premiere". List of films at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2009-03-11. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  8. ^ Robey, Tim (June 26, 2009). "Edinburgh Film Festival: The Hurt Locker, Adventureland, Moon". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  9. ^ "Adventureland (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  10. ^ "Adventureland". Metacritic. 2008-11-25. Archived from the original on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 31, 2009). "Adventureland (2009)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (20 January 2009). "Adventureland". Variety.
  13. ^ "Adventureland - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  14. ^ "Adventureland Gotham Awards Nomination". Gotham Independent Film Awards 2009. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  15. ^ "The 2009 HIGH TIMES Stony Awards". Hightimes.Com. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  16. ^ "Adventureland on Blu-ray and DVD". Archived from the original on 2009-10-02.
  17. ^ "DVD Release - Adventureland". PopMatters. September 2, 2009. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-29.

External links[edit]