Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adjusting My Expectations

So... I was flying home on a plane earlier this week
and they were showing The Adjustment Bureau (2011).

I know it's not exactly a super-recent film
(it came out in March)
but I thought it a fitting time as any to review it.

It's a sci-fi-thriller-romantic-drama about politics, theology, and love, and the sharply-dressed bureaucrats that try to keep our lives on plan.

And admittedly, I liked it.
It got me inspired.
But in my humble opinion it wasn't epic.
And its philosophy was too obvious.

When a truth is something "deep"
(whether it's said or thought or drawn or sung)
I don't want it tossed about carelessly or
breezed over too fast or
inappropriately isolated and too confidently put.
I want it carefully uncovered and treated lightly yet with care, as if it didn't belong to any one individual. Because, let's face it, it doesn't.

But I felt like in The Adjustment Bureau the idea of free will is so obviously put out there, you don't have a chance to appreciate the nuance enough. or is that just me?

In brief, our main character Congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) is given the choice to pursue his political career or pursue his "true love." He's told he can't do both. He must give up one or the other.
Moreover, if he chooses to pursue this girl Elise (Emily Blunt), a talented and fiery ballerina, he'll also somehow prevent her from achieving her dreams as a world-class dancer.
Isn't that depressing?

The movie does admit that some of life is chance - them meeting on the bus for the second time wasn't anybody's plan. But when they first met (she fleeing from bouncers because she'd crashed a wedding and he preparing his concession speech) in a men's bathroom, that was apparently all part of the plan. Because it made David's speech more sincere and authentic and so made him a more likable politician.

Eventually, though, David Norris realizes that his relentless drive to succeed at politics is fueled mostly by a deepset desire to fill the emptiness he's felt from losing both his parents and his brother to early deaths.
And (we learn) even our bureaucratic "angels" have free will sometimes - Harry (Anthony Mackie) decides to help Mr. Norris open doors. (but not just doors of opportunity. magic doors - that can teleport you all over the city. so you see, in a way, the movie doesn't take itself too seriously.) And between Harry's help and his own creative ingenuity and Elise's trust, David does what few thought possible: He alters the Chairman's plan.
And so, Love prevails.

All this is pretty groovy, but What about predestination? What about some big, strong father-dude having  a solid grip on things? Who's driving this thing?
Nobody likes chaos! Nobody likes inconsistency. (And the tone or the mood or the rhythm or something in this film is inconsistent.) And giving up your career ambitions for love? Come on!


I guess I liked this movie more than I thought.
It just wasn't what I was expecting.
(I was expecting something more like Inception or The Matrix, less sentimental and more intense.)
But you don't have to watch it if you don't want to - After all, you've got free will.

Incidentally, the movie is based on a short story (by Philip Dick) - I seem to have been seeing a lot of those lately (movies based on literature).
Not sure what to make of that.

The Adjustment Bureau comes out on DVD next week.

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