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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"WE MOPPED BLOOD OFF THE BUMPER CARS ..."

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 9:30 AM

The following was sent in response to Scene's review of Adventureland ("Superboring," by Robert Ignizio). It was signed with a fake name, as is often the case when someone not only disagrees with a review but feels the need to skewer the critic personally. We usually don't publish these, but this reader put so much time and thought into his response, and seems so genuinely offended by our review, that we felt it deserved some recognition. So here it is, in its typo-ridden glory:


f5ef/1239139693-adventureland.jpgI read your review, obviously, you're an idiot who went to this movie hoping for Superbad, lured in by a deceptive trailer, made by studio execs worrying about getting the underage kids into a slow weekend. You were hoping for something "fresh and funny" which would explore the "carny mileau." Most likely you're of the generation of hipsters that get arm sleeve tattoos, now that youthful mistakes are surgucally removable, and gets a charge off the idea of some long-lost white-trash Americana as an ethnic culture. You drink ironice beer at the Garage, while sporting mutton chop side burns. You'll be the type of sucker the tralier was designed for, bored teens and young adults hoping for another whacky comedy, disappointingly seearching for Seth Ropgen in the credits and disappointed in a sound track that isn't retro-eighties metal.

How do I know this? I saw the same trailer, pushed down my throat at half a dozen other movies and luckily went to the same movie. Adventureland was a movie that so perfectly captured a point in time and space, I almost went home and bit the barrel of a gun. While you were waiting for yet another over-the-top teen sex comedy, I was watching a perfectly sculpted slice of life, a tender little love story. A story I found devoid of most of the "omantic cliches"and not remotely a "tire coming of age" plot. What you saw as a tired plot, I saw as realism. How many movies actually have flawed characters like these? Where are the typical proclamations of fate and cutesy meetings? Where was the surety of everything turning out well, the obviously bad bad people the heroes shouldn't love, and the deux ex machina ending that would save both the hero's love life and his guarentee his future?

Let us start with the time and the setting. in the mid-eighties, i worked in a second rate amusement park in the rust belt. While the movie one was opbviously a third or fourth rate one, it easily and probably was one of geauga lake's sister parks such as Conneaut. This is why I was so offended by your claims that the movie missed it's mark, because I know it did not. I lived it The movie perfectly captured the feeling of living in a once industrial town at the end of a long recession that never seemed to quite end, in the backwaters of the Midwest. Growing up with the knowledge that your only real hope for a better life was to get the hell out. Searching for work in a one-time great region, once famous for plentiful, labor-intensive jobs and not even being able to score fast food scut work, without knowing someone. Having your parents turn out to not be the supermen of the uppe-class, but flawed humans who have lives that didn't turn out like the 50s suit wearing world had dreamed. Even the college experience of losing your naivete as to your true social status in the world is here. That encounter with the true upper class which will always be able to afford Europe and the reality fo your place in the professional middle class, well-off as long as the work holds out.

All that perfection of an era's tone and then they hit the third rate amusement park square on the head. Now we never had quite the level of rip-offs as the movie's park, but every morning the dime-on-a-plate guys sprayed on the Pam, the basketball hoops were set an extra inch away from the backboards so a ball hitting the box never went in, and those bottles remained hoop free. All that were missing were the guys who worked as shills, roaming the park and winning those giant pandas to get the crowd excited. Bananas with eyes? That would have been an upgrade prize at Geauga lake, as we handed out endless numbers of socks with stick on eyes , masquerading as snakes. Those two tone, sewn socks with the gioogle eyes required at least a second win as an upgrade prize. We spent the days caught between loud speaker enhanced spiels proclaiming "YOU WHACK 'EM YOU SMACK 'EM YOU HIT 'EM YOU GET 'EM" from the whack-a-mole booth and the endless irony of "the future so bright you gotta wear shades" coming from the ride lines. We mopped blood off the bumper cars, stole draft beers, and spent rainy days killing time watching the nuns play skee-ball. We were just a bunch of high school and college kids. The only adults in the park were the rare supervisors, often high school teachers trying to make ends meet,and the maintenance men who spent their days sweeping up parts from underneath the coasters and attempting to get twenty year old rides back up and running.

"Romantic cliches"? Sure you have a naive romantic falling in love, a bit old to be a virgin, but still not unknown in the world of backwater liberal arts colleges. Sullen over his parent's failures, yet to bright to balme them for what isn't their fault or necessarily their responsibility. When was the last time you saw a teen comedy whee the female lead was so flawed? A young girl sleeping with an older married man, because her Dad has left her for a new wife might be cliche in real life, but it is a rarity in the movies. Most likely you find Dazed & Confused's Mathew McConaghy's character cruisin' the high school chicks hilarious, you might even have let slip an occassional "all right,all right" or "i justkeep getting older, they stay the same age" to amuse your fiends. This movie showed a less cartoonish version of the same ageing hipster. Maybe if he'd been sporting a wicked 'stache instead of being a handsome twenty something, a nice set of carny facial hair broadly proclaiming his unsuitability as a mate. I might need to see more romantic comedies, but not a lot have a struggling kid deciding between the two complex women, I see here. Most movies with an idealized beauty queen (well queen of the loser park set) would have felt the need of showing her personality flaws in broad strokes, hitting you with a sledge hammer of movie morals. Most likely a re-write would have had her being the mildly anti-semitic one. bSure we have the sappy ending where the kid runs off to the dreamed of paradise of NYC, to be with the girl you knew he'd be with, but lets be realistic here, It is a movie. People don't want nostalgic movies of failure, no matter what jaded reviewers might claim.

I could go on about dozens of other things I found true in this movie. The best friend's odd facial hair and choice of methods of smoking, the casual anti-semitism (subtle in its minor key), the drunken molly hatchet fans that populate the park, or the casual pot smoking by losers trapped and confused as to how to get out of their dead end lives. How many movies treat pot smoking this way, rathe than as an opportunity for hilarious stoned sequences of broad slapstick? "Ha ha ha ha he's stoned" would never be uttered in the theater here. realism.

I know what greg motolla did wrong, he made the4 mistake of telling a truthful tale, in a minor key. He didn't aim for the teen audience who would be waiting for a nice fart or pot joke, told by broad slapstick comedians. He told a story about two slightly messed up kids finding each other ina backwater area in a backwater time. Like the TV show, Freaks & Geeks, he makes the mistake of picking a demographic trough for his nostalgia. far better to pick nostalgia for the boomers or their get than to make the error of remembering Gen X, in anyway that isn't the 90s or Seattle. Like the movie Breaking Away, he makes the mistake of picking the decaying, midwestern city to be nostalgic for. Unlike that movie he made the mistake of picking a couple of middle class kids, rathe than working class kids, who had to overcome their birth. Suburbia just isn't the mean streets. Some people want an orphanage, the trailer park, or a work house before they can cheer. None of these demographics will ever provide the population to appreciate this movie, nobody ever wonders about the suburban, rustbelt losers, who grew up in the shadows of the dea steel industry. I find the nostalgia of this movie particularly poignant now as we're in yet another recession, although it feels like business as usual, here in the heartland.

Lou Reed might get this movie, I'm sure anyone who gets the movie gets lou reed, but I think I'll just slip in Springsteen's Youngstown and go drink some cheap wine and think of the flawed girl I loved, yet never got and the flawed region I did get, that I still love. Maybe another 25 years from now they'll get this movie. — "Yon Yonson"

IGNIZIO REPLIES: Yes, the trailer did create a certain set of expectations. That said, I would have written the same review had I not seen the previews. Maybe I've seen too many movies, but I'm tired of plots where the leads are artificially kept apart by lies and the diversion of obviously inappropriate secondary love interests. Yes, it was nice that Reynolds' character wasn't the complete asshole such characters usually are, and I said as much in my review, but in the end it still felt like formula to me. Clearly Adventureland struck more of a chord with you, and that's great. However, my review can only reflect my own opinion. As for your assumptions about me, I do have sideburns, but otherwise you struck out.

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