The Adjustment Bureau

Director: George Nolfi

Notable Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp, John Slattery

Rating: PG-13

Review:  Sheesh, looks like we have a frontrunner for worst poster of the year already.  This depicts something I could have made in high school when I learned how to use Photoshop.  In my first week.  Could Damon and Blunt have been more pasted?  A great comparison can be made between this poster and the actual movie though.   In both, you get the overall sense of what each is trying to accomplish, but shoddy workmanship ends up souring the final product.  The  Adjustment Bureau wants to be a tight psychological romantic drama, commenting on the conformity of life and running our own lives.  Instead, it spirals downward into a bland back and forth struggle that slaps an ending on because hell, a movie has to end sometime.  Too much can be chalked up to flawed logic and plot points so abstract you have no choice but to roll your eyes and accept them.  Nolfi’s directorial debut is has a boisterous cast and looks pretty enough on the outside, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ll be left yearning for so much more than you actually received.

David Norris (Damon) is a NY Senate hopeful, stuck in his first big race.  Just as things seem to be shaping up, a scandalous picture hits the headlines that sends his numbers plummeting right back down.  Defeated, he heads to the bathroom to practice his anti-victory speech.  Little does he know though, in that very bathroom, is where he’s about to meet the girl of his dreams.  Elise (Blunt), hiding in the bathroom because she just crashed a wedding in the same hotel, strikes a conversation with Norris, ultimately ending in a make out session with fireworks flying.  Sadly, their encounter is cut short, and before David can get her number, security guards chase her off.  Fast forward to the next day, and we meet a strange group of suit aficionados, talking about spilling David’s coffee by 7:05 am.   Why?  Because according to their “plan,” David is never meant to see Elise again.  Agent Harry Mitchell (Mackie) is assigned to divert Mr. Norris, but falls asleep as he walks by.  Awoken, he rushes towards the bus, but is too late.  David sees Elise again, he acquires her number, and sets a series of events in motion that are never supposed to happen.  It’s up to this secret agency to keep David and Elise apart, but they have their work cut out for them.  David shows no sign of giving up the love of his life, taking on anyone he has to, even the plan creating “Chairman.”

Right, and if the roles were reversed…a woman wouldn’t freak out a man was in her bathroom?  Unfair ladies, unfair.

If you want to be completely surprised by this movie, I’ll warn you, there may be tiny spoilers to follow, because I want to touch on certain aspects of the film.  No giving away of endings or anything, but some info you may not expect.  By now, you can guess that a religious aspect is being thrown on the entire film.  An agency that keeps people on their “created path” run by a “Chairman” whom whenever is referenced, is accompanied by a look to the sky?  “Are you angels or something?”  “Nah, more like agents, that just live a lot longer than you guys and have super powered hats that turn doors into magical gateways around the city.”  Yes, the agents are angles and yes, we get it, the Chairman is God.  You think you’re so coy there The Adjustment Bureau, only “hinting” on the religious undertones.  Nothing irks me more than when a film thinks it’s being clever like no other, but can’t see how profoundly childish it looks.  Just stop; come out and admit what you think we can’t tell, and get past all this prodding at what “could” be true.   Ambiguity is perfectly fine, but only when done in a way where it doesn’t frustrate.  Think of The Adjustment Bureau as that friend that has to say “Get it?!” after every joke he tells.  Yes. We f&%king get it.  Now move on.

Which brings me to my next point: God really created a crappy agency.  Honestly, he is an almighty power, yet he make his essential minions powerless if they lose their fedora?   Or have them lose their powers if there’s water around?  “Oh yeah guys, you’ll be keeping the entire world in order, but you have to wear silly hats and you can’t go near water aka 70% of the earth.   Good luck!”  I get the whole checks and balances thing, but, ummm, you’re God.  If someone gets out of line, just smite the sh*t out of them! You are the highest form!  Why not show a little gusto?  How is that company report going to look coming back saying an entire heavenly company couldn’t keep tabs on one rebellious New Yorker?

Sure, maybe I’m focusing on the wrong parts.  A love story is also worked in, right? Wrong.  The film takes no time to establish chemistry because the moral of the story is David and Elise are in love because it was once their fate.  Love at first sight and all that jazz.  Instead, it’s just a series of back and forth acts between the “lovers” that would cause any sane person to stop contact with the other.  David leaves Elise in a hospital after she sprained her leg dancing.  Why?  Because he “had to” (watch the film and you’ll understand).  Years elapse without them seeing each other because of steady work by the bumbling agency goons, but they always manage to slip up and let the couple reunite for a few days of apparent bliss.  It was just too circumstantial to buy into, and there was no visible bond between the two lead characters, and no real reason for the two to be together, except remnants of what was once considered their “fate.”

Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I disapproved of The Adjustment Bureau until I wrote this review.  I was ready to throw down a 6.5, making it that barely watchable but average range.  Instead, thinking back on the film, I now realize just how cheaply the story is written.  Whenever the plot has to advance, there’s some silly circumstance that gets thrown in to the mix.  The hat powers?  The rain?  The agency slacking off because David says he’ll play nice?  No, no, it’s all just a ripoff to watch.  I will say, both Slattery and Stamp played great roles in this film, and were easily the redeeming factor of this religiously charged foray.  But aside from that,  The Adjustment Bureau is too caught up in its own ego to remember it takes more than a smile and a nod towards the sky to create a whole enjoyable movie experience.

Final Rating: 5 crazy gateway door opening bowlers out of 10



About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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1 Response to The Adjustment Bureau

  1. Joe says:

    I was looking forward to possibly seeing this movie… Oh well, I’ll still probably download it…

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