Saturday, March 12, 2011

Changing your fate with a magic hat.

 The Adjustment Bureau- Starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt
                                             Directed by:  George Nolfi
What better way to start a Movie Review blog than with a theology heavy Matt Damon flick. I know, I know. You are thinking “This isn’t a movie review at all, it’s simply a vehicle for Cassy to gush about how amazing Matt Damon is”. I’ll admit, I do see all Matt Damon movie’s in the theatre, regardless of genre or depth. He’s not a bad looking guy, and I happen to enjoy looking at him. That being said, I’d like to remind you that I can remain impervious to the charms of Damon’s smile and impartially review his films, and have in fact found several of them to be utter time wasters. For example: The Legend of Bagger Vance was a marathon of a yawn fest and the more recent Green Zone was trite and self-indulgent.
Are you convinced that I have no bias toward Matt Damon films? If not, take a break, go enjoy a nice refreshing pineapple juice, listen to some smooth jazz, and come back with a clear mind ready to start reading anew. 

********************************Mind Clearing  Break****************************

Feel better? Less judgmental?
 Alright now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

*The Actual Review*
If you’ve  seen a preview for The Adjustment Bureau, you are probably  aware that this is not a cotton candy film, it’s got some weight and covers some pretty hefty topics. This, in truth, is what made me want to see The Adjustment Bureau. I love movies that make you think, that leave you with questions about life and the “big picture”. The Adjustment Bureau tackles the big picture questions of freewill vs. predestination, and true love vs. all the adversity that life has to offer. Not sure you want to pay ten bucks to have to think hard enough to understand these topics?  Sound like a recipe for an overly theological, intellectually driven disasterpiece? I see where you might think that, but hold tight. This film doesn’t whack you over the head with inscrutable symbolism and you don’t need a phd to understand the message George Nolfi  and Philip K. Dick, author of The Adjustment Team were trying to get at. I'd tell you what that message is, but then you'd have no reason to see the film (Damon not withstanding).
Without spoiling the film, here is what you need to know. Matt Damon plays David Norris, a young politician who runs for and ultimately loses a seat on the U.S. Senate. Before giving his concession speech, Norris runs into Elise Sellas (played beautifully by Emily Blunt). Instantly, Norris and Sellas are struck by a palpable chemistry. Norris is so inspired by his feelings for Sellas that he scraps his original concession speech and speaks unscripted and from the heart. This speech has the potential to set Norris back on the fast track to holding some big political offices. This speech is all a part of “The Plan”. “The Plan” is what this movie is all about. In this interpretation of the world, every human being’s life has been mapped out from the beginning of time, they each have their own pre-set plan which is where all the predestination vs. free will ideas come in. Things are complicated when Norris decides (yep despite the plan, people can still make decisions for themselves) to go against the plan to pursue Elise Sellas. Once Norris decides to pursue Sellas he affectively changes both of their “plans” and not necessarily for the better.
This is the point in the movie where I really started to question what perceptions of mine were shaping the way I viewed this movie. Was it holes in the plot that made this movie unbelievable, or was it personal belief? For instance, I was struggling with Norris’ choice to risk his happy, successful future for the chance to be with a woman he barely knew. Furthermore, when he met Elise, he was having a monumentally crappy day and his entire attitude and outlook on things seemed to change with the flip of a switch. Though the chemistry between Damon and Blunt was fantastic (seriously I don’t think I’ve seen Damon with such believable and enjoyable on screen chemistry with anyone since he acted with Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting), it seemed like a stretch to me. But why? Perhaps, because I don’t believe in love at first sight, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone could convince themselves to throw it all away on a hunch that some girl was the bees knees. Which brought me to the second big question, is this movie trying to say that true love is more powerful than “the plan”. This seems flawed. If love can cause a person to buck the plan, why would the creator of “the plan” also create love? And here, you can draw your own parallels between God (or whatever higher power you believe in) and the creator of “the plan” (the movie calls him The Chairman).
Why would a movie so blatantly raise such big questions without giving a solid answer to wrap it all up in the end? If you ask me, it’s a pretty smart thing to do. Had the movie taken a side, fewer people would enjoy or identify with it’s premise. Leaving it open allows the viewer to decide for themselves in a sort of choose your own adventure sort of way. For this, I applaud George Nolfi on a job well done. Maybe next time around, he could explain the significance of the magical hats but for now let’s not split hairs.

If you didn’t enjoy this review, I won’t hold it against you. I guess it just wasn’t in “the plan”.

C’s overall film rating: 3 of 5 stars

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