The Land of Opportunity

The Land of Opportunity (photo)

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To college students graduating into the nightmare of the current job market, the floating, companionable uncertainty of “Adventureland” must look very agreeable. Greg Mottola’s gentle comedy is set mostly in a Pittsburgh amusement park during the summer of 1987. The hero, James (Jesse Eisenberg), was expecting to spend the season traveling around Europe. But money troubles at home make it impossible for his parents (hangdog Jack Gilpin and Wendie Malick, with her bruised brightness) to finance the trip they’ve promised him. Even his place at Columbia Journalism School in the fall is uncertain.

Mottola, whose last film was the mostly marvelous teen comedy “Superbad,” has a knack for capturing the way time stretches out in post-college limbo, and for the camaraderie to be found in lousy summer jobs, the sense that you and your coworkers are all in this bitch together. James befriends Joel (Martin Starr), a lanky, awkward student whose specialty is Russian lit but whose eyeglasses might have belonged to James Joyce, and Connell (Ryan Reynolds) a would-be musician who works as the park’s maintenance man when he’s not talking up his plans of moving to L.A. or pursuing the young girl who’ll be his summer affair.

Mottola is too compassionate a director to deride his characters for their pretensions and failings. Reynolds, who has always seemed the definition of callow, here shows an adult awareness in his baby features. And Starr’s Joel is such a fundamentally decent guy that he achieves a kind of gangling dignity. Mottola is kind, too, to Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the park’s married managers, such a pair of perfectly matched oddballs that you can imagine them happily finishing each other’s sentences when they’re 80. And his benevolence extends to the resident hottie (Margarita Levieva) — you believe her when she asks James to take her out because she’d like to be with a nice guy for a change. And when she doesn’t get one of James’ references, Mottola is smart enough to put the joke on the guy showing off his book collection rather than the girl asking, huh?

Skinny and shaggy-haired, and with a nose that might make him Paul Westerberg’s runt brother, James is the kind of terribly self-conscious guy who seems to have formed his ideas of what girls find charming from Woody Allen movies. He’s a post-feminist kid who sees male behavior divided into two possibilities: his own kind of shambling sincerity (he insists on telling girls he’s just had his heart broken, or that he’s a virgin) or the kind of macho cool that he can’t affect and which repulses him.

04012009_adventureland2.jpgIn some basic way, we feel less for James than we do for Kristin Stewart as Em, the co-worker whose courtship dance with James provides the heart of the movie. Based on “Adventureland” and “Twilight,” Stewart might not have a huge range, but there’s something very satisfying about the tough fuck-you set of her features here. Because she suffers no fools elsewhere, we can be sure that Em’s tenderness towards James is genuine. (Mottola sticks Stewart with one bummer of a scene in which she publicly humiliates her stepmother. It’s too cruel: for a moment the movie veers into the idiot “grown-ups suck” ethos of John Hughes movies.) Stewart makes Em the kind of cool girl you’re happy to have in your gang.

“Adventureland” may be a letdown to the people looking for Mottola to repeat the raunchy boisterousness of “Superbad.” At times, it could use some of that dirt. I’ve already heard the quiet, observational tone of “Adventureland” used to deride “Superbad” as just another dumb teen-boy comedy. That isn’t just a drag — it suggests the kind of insularity “Adventureland” finally escapes.

There’s integrity in the way Mottola stays true to James’ tentative rhythms. But Eisenberg is such a recessive presence that the movie lacks dramatic tension. Eisenberg doesn’t have a false moment, and by the end of the movie, you’re on James’ side. But there’s a measure of perversity in staying true to a character who makes you want to shake him for so long, particularly because Mottola has succeeded in making the amusement park such an accepting place that the logical thing would be for James to flower. No movie I know has ever really gotten the particular way that the barriers of class and cliques fall down after high school and college. (The irony in this one is that the Reagan years are throwing those barriers back up stronger than ever.) Thrown together at Adventureland, this crew is happy hanging out after work grousing and drinking, or sneaking in pot cookies during a shift, or listening to the bands they feel cool for knowing. (It’s the time of The Replacements and Hüsker Dü, but James and Em have caught on to The Velvet Underground and Big Star, as well.)

What carries “Adventureland” beyond its frustrating hero is that it has the sweet, stoned good-naturedness of a quotidian idyll. Mottola is smart enough not to depict the world waiting beyond the park as all phoniness and corruption. This is what the mumblecore kids might be capable of if they had any notion of making movies for an audience.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.