May 19, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 24 March 2011 10:43
With the basketball games of “March Madness’ providing a lot of this month’s excitement, movies in theaters must offer quite a bit to attract audience attention. This week The Reel Dad looks at a new film starring Matt Damon, The Adjustment Bureau.Somewhere hiding in The Adjustment Bureau — a new romantic thriller starring Matt Damon — is an appealing love story between people who accidentally meet and fall in love. Or do they? Does their chance meeting actually happen by chance? Or is it part of a larger plan for their lives? And what chances will they take to try to control their destinies?
Moviemakers have been asking questions of fate and romance for years in favorites like Heaven Can Wait, The Natural and An Affair to Remember. Such romantic fantasies create magic by focusing on relationships, first, while offering just enough detail of what may get in the way. But these films never take themselves too seriously. They simply make us hope that the people will find a way to be together.
The creators behind The Adjustment Bureau don’t seem to trust its central love affair. Rather than let us get to know these characters they overwhelm the couple (and the movie) with the cumbersome details of a thriller. The result resembles unrelated leftovers that accidentally end up on the same plate. The Adjustment Bureau is a reheated mix of the supernatural frenzy of Inception, the outrageous events of Ghost and the touching romance of Sleepless in Seattle.
Matt Damon plays a politician who, as he prepares to concede a race for the US Senate, accidentally meets Emily Blunt in a hotel restroom. Or is it accidental? They are immediately attracted to each other — but the television cameras are waiting — so they must trust fate to give them a second chance. Before much can come from all this coincidence, Damon is tossed into the supernatural where he must confront a “master plan” for his life. Soon he must choose to follow his destiny or his heart; unfortunately the film never makes his choice that simple.
Romantic thrillers work if we care about the characters. But every time we start to get to know Damon and Blunt — and what they can mean to each other — the film jumps to a slow sequence where men in hats talk about controlling the human race. All that talk robs the film of the romantic mood it should create. Ultimately there aren’t enough thrills in The Adjustment Bureau to make it a thriller and not enough romance to make us care.
The stars try. Matt Damon is one of the most likable people on screen even when he doesn’t get much to do. This time he talks and walks but only reveals the essence of the character when he starts running during the final chase sequence. Damon may be a good runner on screen but is too authentic an actor to master the suave veneer the role requires. Blunt, a delightful actress best remembered for The Devil Wears Prada, brings too much intelligence to an underwritten role that demands romantic mystery. Perhaps this romantic mystery could have worked with engaging stars like Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. And it did, in 1963, with the title Charade.
Every year moviemakers are challenged to deliver entertaining films during the slow period between the Oscars and the summer blockbusters. While The Adjustment Bureau promises to serve more than familiar ingredients on a fresh plate, something went wrong in the kitchen. I should have watched college basketball instead.
The Adjustment Bureau
* Content: Medium. The film never answers a fundamental question: why is this man’s life so important to control? Instead it overwhelms the central romance with too many thriller details.
* Entertainment: Medium. For a would-be thriller, there are few surprises. The most suspenseful moment happens when Damon’s Blackberry lands in a cup of coffee. Will it still work? Would yours?
* Message: Low. While romantic thrillers are rarely message films, this one does try to ask questions about life, chance and fate. But that’s not why we go to movies like this.
* Relevance: Low. Surprisingly, the film recalls The Manchurian Candidate when it suggests a broader political plot. And no one called that a romantic thriller.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Low. Romantic thrillers demand that we suspend reality. But that is too much to ask this time. The Adjustment Bureau is less a romantic thriller than a romantic curiosity.
(The Adjustment Bureau is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image. The film runs 105 minutes.)
2-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
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