Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The Adjustment Bureau needs a bit of an adjustment
I really wanted to love this movie. I went in with fairly good expectations that it wouldn't be bad. And it's not a bad film at all. It's a fairly okay film, with good elements, but overall a flawed film with lost potential. I think, for me, the biggest issue I have with the film is that it doesn't know what it wants to be. Its tone is all over the place. If you're thinking it's a scifi thriller then you're wrong. It's more a scifi romance if anything. Which I guess isn't bad (if you're not as jaded as I am) but I wanted it to be elevated above that. The subject matter deserves more.
Matt Damon plays a young, up and coming politician, David Norris, whose career gets sidetracked for a bit. But fate, or those working for fate, have everything set up in accordance to the plan. David falls for Elyse Sellas played by Emily Blunt hard. In a way, they are meant to be together, or once upon a time they were meant to be together, but not anymore. Which David discovers after he glimpses the men behind the curtain changing fate. David walks in on something that he shouldn't have seen, gets chased down, and is then told that sometimes Case Workers, which they call themselves, (the men in the fedora hats that you've seen in the trailers), adjust things for people to keep them on their path. The plot now gets into the ridiculous because the exposition is all clunky. So clunky that it elicited unintended laughter/chuckles from the audience (a full theatre) several times during serious scenes. That is not a good sign.
In a nutshell, the men upstairs want to keep David away from Elyse because, well the reason behind it, isn't good enough. It's a very weak reason. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say that it has to do with their careers, and nothing else. Yawn. Boring. Where are the stakes? Where is the life and death struggle? I had to roll my eyes at the so called big reveal because I kept thinking "big deal if they're not together because then they have great careers if they don't?" Damon and Blunt have really good chemistry with one another, so I want them together. I just don't really care if they get together. Which is a problem because it's the crux of the plot.
I was missing a sense of urgency even. David is threatened with a complete reset, more like a lobotomy, if he tells anyone what he saw or knows. But this threat never comes close to being realized, nor is it ever really a factor. I never once felt for his safety. Because the men in the fedora hats, at times, play an antagonist, but they're never really the villain. Their threats are hollow. And are easily replaced. John Slattery(handsome man. swoon) leaves halfway through the film, and is replaced by Terence Stamp (Yay for General Zod!) but it's odd, and even Stamp doesn't bring the menace as, I believe, he was intended to do.
The film tries hard to be better than it is. To pose the big questions about free will and humanity 's fate or destiny, but it doesn't quite get there. The Matrix does a much better job at this.
For me, it also came down to lazy writing. It's a first time director who also wrote the script, George Nolfi, and I think he didn't get enough feedback on his screenplay due to his prior writing credits. His script needed a lot of editing and rewriting, especially the dialogue when dealing with the scifi elements of the film. And a big peeve for me was the use of deus ex machina*. Things were solved too easily. Oh, and let's not forget the "Magical Negro Character+" that is used, and of course, the lack of women in the film. What? Are all case workers only men? Insert eye roll here. I do get the feeling that there were scenes cut from the film, and I am curious to see a director's cut or longer version, just to see if it works better. There was just something missing.
It felt like the romance story and the scifi elements were two different movies hence why it feels clunky. If you're a fan of these kind of films then I think you probably have to see it because its heart is in the right place, and it's not insulting to the audience like so many other films being made.
If I had to give it a grade I would give it a B- because, like I said, its heart is in the right place.
*A plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object.