Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau

American thriller film loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story, “Adjustment Team”.  The film was written and directed by George Nolfi.  It contains a score by Thomas Newman, with two songs by Richard Ashcroft (“Future’s Bright” for the opening sequence; “Are You Ready” for the closing credits.)

It stars [a very fat] Matt Damon “David Norris”, Emily Blunt “Elise Sellas”, Anthony Mackie “Harry Mitchell”, John Slattery “Richardson”, Michael Kelly “Charlie Traynor”, Terence Stamp “Thompson”.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a young, charismatic politician running for the United States Senate. In 2006 he loses his early lead and is rehearsing his concession speech in the hotel bathroom, where he meets a woman hiding in one of the stalls. Having overheard his speech, she encourages him to be more original and honest. Attracted to each other, they kiss before being interrupted, and Norris leaves to make the speech. Inspired by the woman, Norris goes off script and makes an honest speech that is widely praised and makes him an early favorite for the 2010 Senate race.

So we are immediately thrust into this “romance” between David Norris and Elise Sellas and off we go.  The bureau part comes in when Harry Mitchell is supposed to make Norris spill his coffee.  The audience is left in the dark for some time as to how Harry is supposed to do this.  It is not until 25 minutes into the film when Harry motions 2 blocks away from a speeding bus, that Norris is riding in, sitting next to Elise, that we see that the coffee spills itself.

A few things are wrong with this film.  I don’t know if it is actually the fault of Hollywood.  I don’t know if it is the fault of the source material, Philip K. Dick’s short story, “Adjustment Team”.  Or just, the script writers dropped the ball.

  • the supposed romance between Matt Damon’s character and Emily Blunt’s character was never established as a real romance
  • the bureau is NEVER ironed out in the film
  • the conflict [ keeping Matt Damon’s character from loving Emily Blunt’s character ] is never adequately explained and the ball is dropped heavily on this one [ a very real point could have been made, but it wasn’t ]

Let’s take these three criticisms.

In the story, Norris kisses Elise in a bathroom before his concession speech is to be given.  The very idea that a woman is in a men’s bathroom and in 2 seconds she kisses the main character, speaks of how much of a slut she is, rather than her being virtuous and the object of a real romance.

What they did not show, and what would have made the scene FAR more sense, is if we had seen, previously, of how his romantic life was abysmal and the women he met were drab.  But, we didn’t.  So, for this scene the only basis on this character is that he’s a politician.  It conjured images of Bill Clinton, more than it conjured images of Romeo and Juliet.

Based on this one kiss in the men’s bathroom, the audience is supposed to deduce, and by deduce, I mean that there is no evidence on the screen, that there is a torrid romance brewing.

But wait, it gets worse.  After that kiss, the next day, Norris happens to ride the same bus as Elise and they sit together, yet never see each other for 3 years after that day and somehow he is so in love with her that he would lay down his life for her, a slut he met in a men’s bathroom.  Seriously?  Why is she a slut?  She kissed a strange guy in a bathroom after 3 sentences and ONLY STOPPED because his campaign manager walks in on them at that instant.  Lord knows where it would have gone.  I’ve seen pornos with better romantic development than this.  At least in a porno, the pool boy is an obvious attraction for the lonely housewife.

The bureau or adjustment bureau, is never quite hashed out in the film.  This is where I always blame Hollywood, but the source material could have been lacking.  Let’s go with blaming Hollywood.  They always put out pseudo-religious movies, but keep 10 paces behind actually saying anything religious on screen.  So the bureau seems to be a bunch of angels running around fixing man’s life, but the film NEVER admits that.  At best we get a “could be, could be not” and a shrug of the shoulders.  But, in the same sentence when the question is put to Harry, we get also examples of other weird explanations, including aliens.  We never have any idea who these people are.

So then we are left with the conflict of the story, that Norris cannot love Elise.  Why not?  We are never given a direct reason, or shall I say, we are never given an honest answer.  Since the bureau, obviously, is not above lying, anything that they say is suspect in the film.  Various explanations are given about the conflict but they are all contradictory.

Finally, the ending was a complete let down.  Instead of some fantastic dramatic over the top punch to some political, social or religious current event, we are left with piss water happy ending.  or was it?

I give The Adjustment Bureau a D minus for wasting my time.

The acting was good though. 🙂

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