Saturday, April 2, 2011

At the Movies: The Adjustment Bureau

I wasn't sure what to expect from The Adjustment Bureau. It wasn't the kind of movie I typically wanted to see, but I found myself drawn to it. Here's a spoiler-free synopsis.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is running for the New York Senate. He's young. He's brash. He's just has his lead in the polls killed by a picture of him mooning his old classmates at his college reunion. Before giving his "I tried" speech at the Waldorf he slinks into the men's room and starts talking to himself. Then a beautiful woman (Emily Blunt) holding a champagne bottle emerges from one of the stalls. She tells him that she's hiding from security because she crashed a wedding, establishing her fellow rebel status. They kiss. Then David has to go off and give his speech. Up on stage he starts to say all the things he's supposed to. His staff looks on from the wings, smiling with approval. Then he starts talking about how they picked out his tie for him, how certain colors mean certain things and how important it is to convey just the right message. He talks about how his shoes can't be too shiny because shiny shoes alienate working class men, but that they need to be a little shiny because shoes that are too scuffed turn off the businessmen who pay for the studies that helped them figure out what they know about ties and shoes. His staff is no longer smiling. Then he takes off his shoe to show everyone just what the proper amount of scuffing looks like. Flashbulbs explode; people cheer. David's gone from defeated candidate to the front runner in the next election. I liked this part a lot. Not only is it a classic damn the man scene, but it sets the audience up for what follows. Soon after, David boards a bus and runs into the woman he met in the bathroom. He finds out that her name is Elise, and she gives him her number. But it can't be as simple as that. All of a sudden, men in suits and fedoras are chasing David. Once they've got hold of him, they explain that he can never see Elise again because she isn't part of the plan. Everyone, apparently, has a predetermined plan from which he/she cannot deviate.

To say too much more would spoil the movie. But I will say that this fate vs. free will story is more complicated than it seems. To risk a cliche, it makes you think.

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