Friday, 5 August 2011

“All I have the are the choices I make…”

The Adjustment Bureau: directed and written by George Nolfi
For a while I was confused between Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau. I vaguely remember seeing snippets of them at the beginning of the year and both seemed to tell a story about a dashing male lead a generally charming woman doing a lot of running holding hands. That sounds like a fairly snarky synopsis, but that IS what I remember. I’d hate to move into some bland platitude about how timing is everything and so on. The thing is, I’ve been having a terrible year movie-wise. My highest grade was the B I gave to Hanna and other than that it’s been fair, okay, and good-ish but nothing exceptional, or not even anything legitimately good. So, I wonder if that movie doldrums made me all the more anxious for something to latch on to. But, let me use my words…

I can’t help but roll my eyes when films try to take on larger than life issues and still be popcorn friendly and in theory that’s what The Adjustment Bureau aims to do. It’s about the age-old philosophy of Determinism. That, right there, is the impetus for thousands – perhaps millions – of literary pieces and The Adjustment Bureau immediately sets itself up for something like defeat because a film more interested in its romance arc is probably not going to do as much justice to the dilatation as it deserves. The story is David Norris (no relation to Chuck), a New York senator to be who on a fateful night meets a contemporary dancer Elis (played by the lovely Emily Blunt). It’s one of those “life-defining” moments and meeting her changes his outlook on life and politics. But, things go awry when he meets her – accidentally – some time later throwing the course of his life all track and giving the members of The Adjustment Bureau (a dubious organisation which ensures that everything happens “as it should”) decide that they shouldn’t be together.

It sounds a bit silly when I put the machinations of the film into a single paragraph and I know that my annoying habit to overanalyse would make me doubt the film if I keep ruminating on it, but The Adjustment Bureau, although not a particularly riveting stylistic entry, benefits not as much from the admittedly interesting concept as it does from a difficult-to-define mood of easiness that emanates from screen each time that Emily Blunt and Matt Damon pair up. The film is billed as a romantic thriller and it’s backed by an absolutely atrocious poster (really, what IS that?) and the film doesn’t quite make good on the thrilling aspects. It’s riveting, no doubt and Anthony Mackie spends a significant amount of time looking especially dour – but, few of his contemporaries make dour look so good, so I’m more than game.

In the end, I can’t quite surrender my over analytical brain to completely LOVING The Adjustment Bureau but I have no qualms about saying that it’s a completely enjoyable film. I’d have been more willing to buy in to its conceit if those last five minutes weren’t just too…bland? It sort of subverted what went prior, capping off a movie that seemed to be devoid of any agenda with a conclusion that isn’t woeful, but just feels tonally jerky. Which, of course, returns to the point that any film which flirts with such significant concepts must be willing to do what it promises. Still, The Adjustment Bureau thrives more than it doesn’t not only because Nolfi is in control of his story (for the most part) but because in the most innocuous of moments Damon and especially Blunt make some thrilling choices as actors that make characters we have no significant knowledge of into people we root for. Maybe I didn’t fall in love with it, but I fell in like…a lot.


Stevee Taylor said...

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt really made this film for me. Their chemistry was gorgeous and so utterly believable...they were brilliant. I thought it was a solid film, but it was a little underwhelming, which was a shame. I still really liked it, though!

Paolo said...

I never got the impression that Mackie looked dour, if anything, I'd say that the film's overall look can be summed up to that word. Or maybe constricting would be better. Anyway, Mackie could have stolen that film if he wanted to do so.

And I agree with you, Stevee, that it's a great movie to watch Blunt and Damon's chemistry but the rest of it is flat.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

stevee there chemistry IS gorgeous.

paolo you know how much i overthink and analyse things, but i'm just wholly charmed by this one. even with the bleak art direction and whatnot. i can't justify, i just do.

Eric said...

Great review. I liked The Adjustment Bureau quite a bit, too. It has its share of flaws, but it's still a lot of fun. Plus Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have great chemistry, and that really helps it out overall.

anahita said...

I saw this on the plane - will write my own review soon but I think the grade you gave it was just right. It was good but fell into clichés and nonsense towards the end which stopped it being amazing x

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

eric it really does. each time emily appeared on screen i wanted to swoon.

anahita the last ten minutes really weren't excellent, but the rest more than makes up in the grander scheme of things.