Film Reviews

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

By • Mar 18th, 2011 •

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Stupid. Regrettably, love conquers all. Puts a stain on Philip K. Dick’s post-death career.

I invited a friend to the promotional screening. He asked: “What’s it about?” “It’s about a free movie.” “Who’s in it?” “A famous movie star. That’s all I know. Go check it out on IMDb.”

Off of my beloved Zoloft (for a too long six weeks) while I prepare for an intensive three days of thunder ayahuasca ceremonies, I have little patience. My own breathing annoys me. My family is begging me to take up pot smoking. But enough about me…

My thinking was this: Its Matt Damon. He’s offered everything. He can pick the good scripts. Wrong! Movie stars of his status get lazy (and fat). It’s about location over substance. It’s about who they want to spend three months in bed with. The hell with the script. It’s about: “How much am I getting paid?”

Last year it was HEREAFTER. Now it’s THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.

Poor Matt Damon. I suggest he hire somebody to read his scripts and expunge all tears, cries, and romantic loneliness and pleadings. Why is Damon playing a sissy? This is the guy who played Jason Bourne! Who wants to see a movie about romantic desperation?

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a rising political star in New York City. He’s got everything going for him but he has no sex life. Women do not want him. He has no Lewinskys on his staff or sincere political groupies. He’s a brooder. He’s teetering on being a “mope”. But Norris had made some really stupid missteps (mooning in college) on his way to his goal – President of the United States. Not bad for a motherless kid from Brooklyn.

What do you think of coincidences? Chance meetings? Falling in and out of love with someone and then never seeing them again in your lifetime? Well, Facebook does allow senior citizens to find lost lovers from high school.

When Norris loses the New York Senate race and runs off to a bathroom to rehearse his resignation speech, he meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) who is hiding from security after crashing a wedding. This chance meeting was meant to happen to inspire Norris to make a historic speech. He was never supposed to meet Elise again. Elise was a “Momentary Muse”.

But when sympathetic Adjustment Bureaucrat trainee Harry (Anthony Mackie) – assigned to track Norris’s life path and keep it on track – falls asleep on the job, Norris meets Elise again on a New York City bus and alters his future.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Something magical has happened to Norris. He has fallen in love for the very first time. He doesn’t know why but he will obsess about Elise every day for three years.

Norris, why not just find out what wedding was being held on the night of your senate defeat and who slipped in without an invitation? Perhaps a jilted girlfriend of the groom?

A wedding crasher? What kind of stupid screenwriting “meet cute” trick is this? What would have been so wrong about “political stalker?”

Since the coffee didn’t spill at the right moment, and destiny was flipped, Norris steps into the real real world – where the entire population’s destiny is orchestrated by the Chairman of the Board, or maybe God without Satan.

Suddenly, über-ambitious, formerly focused Norris only wants Elise. But men in trilby hats are doing everything they can to keep them apart! They will turn the world upside down to do it. The stakes are high – and Norris is told that he is not to tell anyone that he had a glimpse of how the real world works and, he is never to see Elise again, or else.

It’s the “or else” part that Norris laughs at.

Norris has been warned but even though he has been “written in” on the inner workings of Fate and God’s Plan for Mankind by Harry’s immediate boss Richardson (John Slattery), his heart wants what his heart wants.* No matter what the cost.

*The heart wants what the heart wants,” said Woody Allen in justifying his affair with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter.

Richardson has to call in the big guns and pulls legendary Thompson, a.k.a The Hammer, (Terence Stamp) out of retirement. If it weren’t for Thompson, the Renaissance would not have happened! He staged the meeting between Pope Julius ll and Michelangelo. He single-handedly took civilization out of the Dark Ages. What a résumé!

He taught Mankind how to make fire.

Thompson gives a speech about humanity’s wonky course. When they stepped aside and let people do their own thing, Mankind merrily skipped into World Wars 1 & 2, the Holocaust, 9-11, and now, the Kardashian Sisters.

Should Norris turn his nose up on his pre-designed Fate or go off with Elise? Guess which life course he takes?

Damon, bloated and ill at ease, does seem to enjoy working with Blunt. That silly modern dance thing Elise did made me look away. Why are all the noble characters in films played by black men? Why did Terence Stamp allow himself to be dressed like a salvaged 60’s dandy? Why did I leave the theater wondering about Elise’s boyfriend Adrian? It left the bad impression that Norris and Elise were at their core selfish and vain people not interested in the feelings of others.

The film was directed and written by George Nolfi, who adapted Philip K. Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team”. While New York City looks great, Nolfi must have had no influence over his actors. Stamp and Slattery appear to have no clue to their characters. Blunt plays Elise as (a) a flirt (b) naïve (c) a SOHO artist. When Damon gets all emotional, he keeps repeating the same ghastly dialogue about how much he wants to be with Elise – just lazy screenwriting and ineffectual directing.

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