BBC2: Sunday 26 July, 11.20pm
The summer of 1987 was going to be so cool for graduate Jesse Eisenberg, who’s looking forward to college in the fall. A hopeless romantic who happens to still be a virgin. But his girlfriend dumps him and his trip to Europe is off. Now he has to get a summer job. Welcome to Adventureland, a primary coloured playground with Pittsburgh steel mills belching smoke in the background. It’s an amusement park run by Skeleton Twins odd couple Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. There’s only one rule: no one’s allowed to win the giant panda. Here and in the entirely unrelated Zombieland, Jesse Eisenberg proves he has all the acting chops that many ascribe to Superbad’s blank-faced star Michael Cera. “That’s a little hyperbolic, but I see where you’re going with that,” says Jesse. He’s speaking to someone in the movie, not to me. This guy makes understatement funny (“No, I’ve never driven an asphalt mixer, per se…”) and the entire film, a coming-of-age comedy that refuses to get too cute, is very nicely judged. Its treatment of the decade that taste forgot is similarly muted. Unlike, say, The Wedding Singer, it isn’t ‘on’ all the time. It has more of a My Favorite Year vibe, fuelled by a cool nostalgia that never stoops to camp histrionics, and a refusal to lay on the 80s schtick too thick. The heavy retro stuff is saved for a solitary disco scene. The entire cast is excellent, and there are memorable turns from Ryan Reynolds as a legendary maintenance man (they say he once jammed with Lou Reed), Silicon Valley’s Martin Starr as a cynical slacker colleague, and Twilight’s wraith-like Kristen Stewart, nibbling her nails. Even so, she’s never been as endearing as she is here: “Will you please stop saying intercourse?” The use of period songs is witty, too, though you’ll never want to hear Rock Me Amadeus again.