Matt Damon, Emily Blunt
Canadian Rating: PG
Initial thoughts during opening sequence: Another film set in New York City? We make movies that take place in other galaxies but Hollywood can’t tell a sci-fi story set in Uganda, Uruguay or Uzbekistan?
The Adjustment Bureau is your basic The Matrix meets Men in Black, with a touch of The Untouchables.
Yet The Adjustment Bureau manages to win a few half-stars, to my surprised delight. Director George Nolfi’s modern, light-hearted take on Dystopia transcends it’s own employing of time-tested clichés, clichés such as the ol’ boy-tells-girl-“I-know-this-sounds-crazy-but-you’ve-got-to-trust-me”-and-she-does. (We eat up this stuff on film but try talking like that in real life. It doesn’t fly. Trust me).
The fact is, this movie tells the truth. The truth being: Men in fedoras work overtime stacking the deck in order to rig our lives.
Is that not more important than the fact that this movie contains no poetic dialogue and every line is perfectly calculated to advance the plot?
The Men In Fedoras, the presumed antagonists of the story, have judged that it is more valuable to humanity for the hero (Matt Damon) to become President of the United States than to get the girl (Emily Blunt) and these are mutually exclusive. Have they judged right or wrong? That is not the point. The point is, we all have Men In Fedoras, sometimes in real life, sometimes in our head. The underlying theory of this film is that we are each motivated by what fills our personal emotional gaps. The question for each of us becomes, are we able to find a way to fulfill our emotional needs and then also use our lives to make a difference? And, whose contribution is worth more between, for example, the US president and your everyday average non-president, or between a national ballet star and children’s dance instructor?
Choices are difficult because each opportunity comes at the expense of other opportunities. Matt Damon wants to be president, until he wants the girl. But the Men in Fedoras still want him to be president. We’ve all been there. Anyone who has had to weigh options while factoring in the expectations of others will relate, as will anyone who has clinical paranoia (or an actual reason to be paranoid).
Anyone who likes their gifts wrapped with a bow will appreciate this film’s rounded edges. The soundtrack neither adds nor detracts. Some shots are obviously blue-screen, and any chance of the well-composed visuals creating atmosphere are negated by the pace, where transitions that represent months or years feel no different than transitions representing a few minutes, and viewers are never given a chance to immerse themselves in the scene.
Lastly, I could have done without the closing narration.
Using my system, a movie can win up to 1 star for any of 5 categories (0 is bad, 1/2 is neutral, 1 is good). The Adjustment Bureau is scored as follows:
Plot: 1 Star
Dialogue: 1/2 Star
Music: 1/2 Star
Cinematography/FX: 1/2 Star
Atmosphere/Mood: 0 Stars
Score: 2 1/2 stars out of 5
Translation: Not going to change your life, but there are worse ways to spend 1 hr 45 min
Personal Peeve: When listing atrocities of the 20th century, Thompson mentions WWI, the Great Depression, the Holocaust… then omits Hiroshima/Nagasaki and skips to the Cuban Missile crisis. It is difficult to buy the idea that people with a worldwide vantage which includes all of history would consider the near destruction of nations as somehow more significant than the actual willful annihilation of two whole cities.
Incidentally, this movie does have some great shots of New York City.
I grew up in a sea shell — a conch, if you will — one of those ones where if you hold them to your ear you hear the ocean. Now I live in an urban center. I’m interested in Shakespeare. I don’t read it. I’m just interested by it. Most of my knowledge comes from meeting people in urban centers, and from reading the spines of books. I pass IQ tests because of this. And because I used to play with Lego™. I am hoping Lego™ sues me, because I will ride the publicity to launch my new book, “George Lucas Presents Metallica”. This will really get me sued, which will allow me to launch my new line of hair products. I have sensitive hearing. I still hear the ocean. Life is a quest to return to the womb.
pertopolis is based out of Montreal