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Critic’s Notebook: How the Recent Kristen Stewart Scandal Resembles ‘Adventureland’

Critic's Notebook: How the Recent Kristen Stewart Scandal Resembles 'Adventureland'

Twilight fans were getting used to the increasingly open relationship between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison, relishing the perfect serendipity of their on-and off-screen chemistry. Now, a “momentary indiscretion” involving Stewart and “Snow White and the Huntsman” director, Rupert Sanders, has threatened to jeopardize the star-crossed romance (or at least sully Stewart’s brand).

Normally, this kind of thing would not fall into Indiewire’s purview. However, the interplay between art and real life is always a pertinent subject for discussion, especially when it involves legitimately talented actors like Stewart and not reality television stars. Many people associate both Stewart and Pattinson with “Twilight,” of course, but they also have aligned themselves with smaller, less splashy movies that we often cover in this space. For instance, both recently starred in movies featured in this year’s Cannes competition: Stewart in an adaptation of “On the Road” and Pattinson in David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis.”

Could this glossy scandal taint the reception of these movies? If so, it would testify more to issues plaguing our celebrity-obsessed society than anything else. On the other hand, there remains the potential for these movies to gain awareness due to the increased attention on these stars. Whatever the ramifications, the situation does allow us to revisit another credit in Stewart’s career with new relevancy.

Sure, Stewart and Pattison’s romance mirrored their relationship in the “Twilight” movies as Bella and Edward: lovers against the world, battling to shelter their intimacy from shape shifters and blood-suckers alike (who provide ideal metaphors for papparrazi). However, reports of the recent infidelity scandal bear similarities to a superior film with far more grounding in real life: The 2009 coming-of-age dramady “Adventureland.”

In the Sundance-acclaimed movie, Stewart plays Em, a taciturn but oft-desired teenager working at the eponymous theme park. Em’s relationship with recent college grad James (Jesse Eisenberg) begins much like the Stewart and Pattison coupling: As co-workers, their on-the-job flirtations evolved into something deeper at the end of the day. Like its real life counterpart, Em and James’ relationship was at first vaguely defined to those around them, just as it was somewhat unclear to the lovers themselves.

In both cases, just when the semblance of an affair started to look more legitimate to everyone involved, the intrusion of an older man complicated matters with drastic results. With the “Snow White” scandal, of course, the culprit is Sanders; in “Adventureland” it’s a washed up repairman named Mike (Ryan Reynolds) who initiates an affair with Em.

Aided by writer-director Greg Mottola’s intelligent script, “Adventureland” unravels its scandal by allowing its characters to come to terms with their past mistakes. It’s almost too easy to superimpose the movie’s plot on the real life story as a means of imagining what might happen next. Following a downward spiral, which reaches its nadir in a car crash, James overcomes his hang ups and eventually accepts Em back into his life. Whether or not the Stewart-Pattinson relationship follows the same path, we can assume that Sanders won’t continue to have much to do with either them — just as Mike eventually quit working at Adventureland.

At the end of the day, we offer this comparison not for the sake of pure schadenfreude (we’ll leave the bulk of that to the gossip rags) but rather to remember that Stewart is more than pure fodder for glossy magazine covers and screaming headlines. She’s an actress with serious potential still in the early stages of her career. We hope that, like Em, she’s able to extricate herself from this particular kerfuffle and keep moving forward.

Embedded is a dramatic reenactment of Stewart/Sanders affair — or, if you prefer, a scene from “Adventureland.”

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