Adventureland (film)

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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 byWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date
  • April 3, 2009 (2009-04-03)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.8 million[2]
Box office$17.2 million[3]

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. Set in the summer of 1987, recent college grad James Brennan (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 (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 degree in comparative literature from Oberlin College and enrolling in journalism graduate school at Columbia University after receiving his acceptance letter. 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.

After being rejected from every other job he applies to due to a lack of any real work experience, 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 section, despite James' preference of working on rides. He later meets his new co-workers: the sarcastic college student Joel; Bobby's wife and park manager Paulette; siblings Pete and Sue O'Malley; friendly nerd Munch; the alluring but vapid rides worker Lisa P.; and the park's technician, Mike Connell, a part-time musician who claims to have once jammed with Lou Reed, James' musical idol. Another games worker, Emily "Em" Lewin, saves James from being stabbed by a lying, cheating customer. That night, Em offers him a ride home and they begin to get to know each other a bit.

With her father and stepmother out of town, Em throws a party and continues befriending James, who discovers that they both share a similar taste in music. During their conversation, Em persuades James to join her in her swimming pool. After fooling around for a bit, Em leaves the pool to get a drink. James follows only to learn that he has an erection. Not wanting Em to see, he tells her he'll join her shortly. When she leaves, he begins to climb out when Frigo appears and announces James' erection to the other party-goers, prompting them to laugh and James to jump back into the water in humiliation. After the party has broken up, Connell, who is married and has been having an affair with Em, comes over and they have sex.

Later that week, James gives Em his mixtape of "J's Favorite Bummer Songs" and asks her out for a drink. At the local 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. After spending a night at a dance club with James, Joel and Sue, Em tells James that she wants to take things slow due to problems in her life, leaving James confused and upset. Meanwhile, Sue drunkenly makes out with Joel in the back of Em's car, but rejects him the next day after he attempts to bring her a gift, using the excuse that her Catholic parents would not allow her to date a Jew, despite Joel's claim that he's actually an atheist. After learning of this, an outraged Em calls Sue an anti-Semite in front of other staff members in defense of Joel and declares that they are no longer friends. Lisa P., who is being hit on by Sue's cocky brother, Pete (who also works at the park), asks James out on a date in front of him, but James has mixed feelings because of his relationship with Em. After Connell talks him into going, he accepts Lisa's offer.

After the date, during which Lisa and James kiss, James learns that Em had called to say she regrets having rejected his feelings. Joel later sees James and Em walking together and, irritated by the recent chain of events, quits. James unsuccessfully tries to talk him out of it, and Joel reveals that he's angry at James for dating Lisa P., when James is already in love with Em. James, riddled with guilt, confesses to Em about his date 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 Frigo, tells James that one night he saw Em and Connell doing "pushups without any pants on" in the back of Connell's car.

Frigo drives James to Connell's mother's house, which is where Lisa had earlier told him that Connell takes girls to have sex. James already knows the location of the house after heading there with Connell some time before. Shortly after arriving, he witnesses Em leaving. Shocked to see James, Em becomes tongue-tied. After a brief confrontation, James leaves angrily, and Em cries. James tells Lisa about the affair and asks her not to tell anyone, but she tells her friend Kelly and soon afterwards the news spreads throughout the park. Upon noticing that all of the park employees know, Em quits and decides to move back to New York. A heartbroken James drunkenly crashes his father's car into their neighbor's 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, whom James 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. Upon her arrival, she is reluctant to talk to him, feeling that she has ruined everything between them. James tells her that he sees her in a different way than she sees herself. Touched, Em brings James up to her apartment. James reveals that he'll find a job, work out, and try to attend Columbia University next year. After taking off his rain-soaked clothes to let them dry off, Em offers him an Adventureland t-shirt, something James never wants to see again. They kiss and begin to take their clothes off ready to have sex. James then asks, "Are we doing this?", to which Em replies, "I think so."


  • Jesse Eisenberg as James Brennan, a recent graduate of Oberlin College 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 Em, whom he soon begins dating.
  • Kristen Stewart as Emily "Em" Lewin, 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 New York University majoring in Art History. She does not 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. She later falls in love with James and begins a romantic relationship with him in New York.
  • 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 many women, including Em.
  • Martin Starr as Joel, one of James' co-workers at the games in Adventureland and James' friend in the summer. He is a college student studying 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. Although 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’ best friend at Oberlin who was also a literature major. 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,[4][5][6] with most scenes shot in Kennywood, a historic amusement park in nearby West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. The park was "heavily" altered to look run-down.[7] 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[8] and went on general release on April 3, 2009. The film was also screened at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival.[9]

Critical response[edit]

Adventureland received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 88% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 216 reviews, with an average rating of 7.33/10. 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".[10] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

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."[12] 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."[13]

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[3][14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]


A total of 41 songs were licensed for use in the film.[18] 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, and Crowded House.

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)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Adventureland (2009) - Financial Information". Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  3. ^ a b "Adventureland (2009)". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ Tiech, John (2012-07-17). Pittsburgh Film History: On Set in the Steel City. ISBN 9781614235897.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kaleem Aftab (December 21, 2007). "Adventureland News". IGN Entertainment. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ Robey, Tim (June 26, 2009). "Edinburgh Film Festival: The Hurt Locker, Adventureland, Moon". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  10. ^ "Adventureland (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  11. ^ "Adventureland". Metacritic. 2008-11-25. Archived from the original on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 31, 2009). "Adventureland (2009)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  13. ^ McCarthy, Todd (20 January 2009). "Adventureland". Variety.
  14. ^ "Adventureland - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  15. ^ "Adventureland Gotham Awards Nomination". Gotham Independent Film Awards 2009. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  16. ^ "The 2009 HIGH TIMES Stony Awards". Hightimes.Com. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  17. ^ "Adventureland on Blu-ray and DVD". Archived from the original on 2009-10-02.
  18. ^ "DVD Release - Adventureland". PopMatters. September 2, 2009. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-29.

External links[edit]