Sunday, August 30, 2009


I watched the movie Adventureland on DVD last week. A few thoughts:

  • The movie mostly avoided easy stereotypes. The was particularly evident in the portrayal of Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the married guitarist and Adventureland electrician with whom Em (the delightful Kristen Stewart) is having a secret affair. This kind of character is routinely protrayed as metaphysically evil (think the cheating fiance' in The Wedding Singer), but here the character is allowed decent behavior as well as reprobate. The downside is that because the movie does not intend for us to hate him, it cheats by keeping his wronged wife safely offscreen for all but a couple of seconds. And while the movie is willing to apportion part of the blame for the adultery to Em, it puts the word "homewrecker" in the mouth of Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), the beautiful but ditsy girl who gleefully spreads the word about the affair.

  • One instance of Connell's humanity is that, even as James (Jessie Eisenberg), the movie's protagonist, tells him of his feelings for Em (not knowing of her relationship with him), Connell gives James what seems like good advice on game:

    James: "I think I'm really in love with Em, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for a full-time girlfriend. I just had my heart broken by a girl at school."

    Connell: "Please tell me you didn't tell Em that."

    James: [Puzzled look]

    Connell: "You did tell her that! [Sigh] Look, I'm not saying you should never be vulnerable with a woman. I'm just saying you shouldn't play that card first."

    James: [shocked] "It's a card?"

  • Eisenberg, consciously or not, channels Woody Allen in his portrayal of James. It's frankly annoying. In fact, it's not especially clear to me why both Em and Lisa P. would be interested in him. He's not bad looking, but many of his mannerisms are stereotypically "beta".

  • Come to think of it, most of the characters with whom the audience is apparently supposed to identify are not only annoying, but annoying in what appears to be a particularly Jewish way. The Em, Joel, and James (I think) characters are all explicitly Jewish. I think they are intended to be taken as intelligent and "deep", whereas the Gentiles are cast as dim and shallow. But the actual effect achieved isn't especially positive. This is in marked contrast to the portrayal of Jewish characters in an earlier era.

  • For instance, the 1992 movie School Ties cast the strapping Irishman Brendan Frazier as a Jew with zero distinctively Jewish traits, all the more to make the eventual hostility to him seem irrationally bigoted. In contrast, consider this episode from Adventureland: after a single make-out session with Joel, Sue regretfully informs him that she can't date him because her Catholic parents object. While it should be obvious that Catholic girls are forbidden to marry (and therefore date) non-Catholics, Em flies into a rage at Sue, telling her she is antisemitic and probably homophobic (?) as well. Even in the context of the movie, this came across to me as sanctimonious hyperbole, but in the finale, James refers to it as something he likes about Em.

    In my review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, I wondered aloud about the negative portrayal of the Jewish characters. I'm beginning to suspect that the makers of that film and this one are oblivious to the way these characters are perceived by Gentile audiences.

  • In a further nod to realism, when Connell's wife learns of his affair, she (again offscreen) has a fit, but ultimately stays with him. After all, Connell is still the alpha bad-boy guitarist, and thus still desirable. Art is catching up to reality: women don't divorce men for what they do, but for what they are. They then search for the most socially acceptable excuse at hand.

  • Further yet, James finds himself working at Adventureland because his father's demotion at work means that his parents can't afford to send him to Europe. It also means that James's father takes a status hit in the eyes of his wife, who becomes very prickly with him during the few scenes in which they appear. God, I hope I'm never unemployed.

. . . .

We here at Delenda are celebrating our very first link from Steve Sailer, in last Monday's essay. And wouldn't you know it would be the very week I took off from blogging.

I spent last week in a training class at a private university in upstate New York. I was in a class full of other engineers. Most of them seemed older and smarter than me, and I got the impression that most of them earned less money. They were also grateful to have jobs. It was kind of depressing that I was probably looking at my own best-case future.


Erik said...

God, I hope I'm never unemployed

Unless you're also a bad-boy guitarist. Or other suitable "artist."

Anonymous said...

The Jesse Eisenberg character is supposed to be Irish-Italian and Catholic, just like the movie's writer-director. The actor being Jewish doesn't make the character so (the Catholic Lisa P. is also played by a Jewish actress; and the two Jewish characters are not played by Jews).

The same is true of School Ties, where Brendan Fraser himself is not Jewish, but two of the actors playing the bigoted WASPs, Randall Batinkoff and Cole Hauser, are Jewish in real life (Batinkoff, who is taller and better looking than Fraser, would have made a pretty good choice to play Fraser's Jewish character; but maybe he wasn't a good enough actor).

Unknown said...

For future reference:
Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage.

Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron.

Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.