After spending close to an hour reading summaries and watching reviews for six or so films that came out in theatres this past week, one thing is clear to me: it is Oscar Slump Season. It always seems a giant shame to me that the always late bombardment of quality film making released at the end of the calendar year (in order to qualify for the Academy Award nominations) should be followed immediately by a two or three month period ripe with lack luster films until the Summer Blockbuster Season shines through. Perhaps this is due to “film burnout” among avid movie fans and home Oscar critics who just had their minds subsequently blown by watching Black Swan and then reblown by a third viewing of Inception. Perhaps people got tired of arguing whether or not The King’s Speech really deserved to win Best Picture over The Social Network, and they just wanted an excuse to go to the movies and not think very hard. Perhaps movies like The Adjustment Bureau really are the only things have to offer in theatres between March and June. I suspect these are all true in some respect, but frankly it doesn’t comfort me much as a bored viewer in the largest theatre of a suburban movie complex attached to a mall to be watching The Adjustment Bureau and trying to forgive how droll and outlandish it is based on Oscar Slump Season.
The Adjustment Bureau stars two of Hollywood’s top A-list actors: Academy Award winner and People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2007 Matt Damon, and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt, who incidentally, has never made a movie I didn’t at least enjoy her performance in. Although I certainly wouldn’t call the acting performances by the pair sub-par in this film, I have to admit, it seems even to me that the film duo was a bit bored. Damon is supposed to be a “Congressional Bad Boy” David Norris famous for being impulsive and getting in bar fights or mooning infused collegiate pranks, but mostly I just watched a relatively tame Damon try to stick to the grind and listen to what other people in the film told him to do in regards to his wardrobe, career, and choices in women. I wish I could have seen him do some actually bar fighting or mooning instead of just watching him reprise his role as Jason Bourne while running around Manhattan in the rain for the last third of the film. Blunt is certainly likeable as a female lead, and her acting is perfectly acceptable. I will say, her dancing is actually extraordinary in my opinion, and I found myself wanting to just watch her ballet performances rather than anything else in the film. Perhaps this was an intended effect, so that I would fall in love with her like Norris does, but it seems more likely to me that the rest of the movie is just droll, and her ballet work is the only remarkable work being done. The two have a decent amount of chemistry when they banter together in a bathroom or on a bus, but nothing to shout home about or compare to the likes of any Juliet and Romeo. It doesn’t help them either that the film includes what might possibly be the most boring sex montage I have ever seen on film, shot entirely from the shoulders up, in semi-slow motion with dissolve shots or the pair kissing in bed. If I wasn’t bored with the first half of the film already, I was definitely unimpressed with what should have been a romantic climax in the film (no pun intended).
However, the real problem with the film is its narrative. Loosely (and I mean very loosely) based off of Phillip K. Dick’s short story, “Adjustment Team,” the movie operates under the assumption that it is possible that the entire world can be monitored by “adjustments” in the form of spilling coffee, phone lines going dead, power going out, or even small changes in the way a person reasons. Strictly speaking, I wouldn’t have a problem with a little suspension of disbelief if this was where the film stopped in its explanation of how this movie is possible. The problem for me occurred when Director, Producer and Writer of the film George Nolfi attempted (without success I might add) to explain out some of the minutia of how this works, with the decision to basically throw his hands in the air and say, ‘God did it. Try to argue with that one skeptics.’ To which all I have to say is ‘Really George Nolfi? In a science fiction romance flick, your brilliant explanation for this entire company is that all of the members of the “team” are in fact angels, and this all powerful Chairman figure is in fact God?’ I don’t buy it. It is just too outlandish for me. I suppose it is important to say that as a movie watcher I’m almost always more in favor of ambiguity and unanswered questions rather than explanations, like for example how the loop of February 2nd is never explained in the film Groundhog Day. I actually find it much more interesting to consider what the film would be like if the bureau was itself a privately owned company, possibly alluding to some William Gibson-esque corporate-ocracy, or even just left completely unexplained. That would have been a cool film to see. But alas, Hollywood rarely listens to my opinions.
Granted, I’m being a bit harsh. The film wasn’t terrible, and it has a sappy, romantic ending that any couple could go and potentially enjoy for a “movie date.” But as a suggestion I’d try to go to a cheap theatre and follow up with some ice cream afterwards, just in case. I’ll give the film 3 out of 5 stars. Nothing to shout about really.