Adventureland (2009)

When I was an awkward teenager, leading a life of superficial relationships and (more importantly) envy of my more regal and attractive classmates, I feasted on the films of John Hughes, even though they were more than 10 years old at that point. Like so many other anguished adolescents, I saw myself in Molly Ringwald. I watched videotaped versions of Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink so many times that I actually burned through the physical tape!

Teen angst was universal in a deep, personal, emotional way that still makes you feel part of something more. There's a part of me that is still on the watch for teen movies that are reviewed positively, films that can bring back that bizarre mental stew of alienation and hopefulness.

Adventureland definitely managed to achieve that, though the characters aren't quite teenagers (they're recent graduates from college). It helps that Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart look approximately the right age, which adds a touch of realism to their post college vulnerability, that special feeling that greets all liberal arts majors when academia ends and real world enters.

I'm not gonna talk too much about the plot except to say that anyone who's ever done a crappy summer job will easily relate to this particular gang of misfits, beholden to running an old-fashioned amusement park in the late 1980's. The movie ended just where it needed to, before my natural cynicism interfered with my enjoyment of certain deepening relationships.

Final note: Superb soundtrack! Best of the late 1980s.

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