Friday, March 04, 2011

FILM REVIEW: The Adjustment Bureau

This romantic sci-fi thriller is about a politician (Matt Damon) whose destiny gets off track when he falls in love with a ballerina (Emily Blunt). The Fates, here represented by suit-clad men (John Slattery from "Mad Men" and Anthony Mackie from The Hurt Locker) with dashing fedoras who can teleport through specific doors, have a book that shows what the politician and the ballerina are destined for--one to become the president of the United States and the other to become a legend in the world of dance. If they continue their affair, if they defy the Fates, their futures will never happen and the ripple effect could send the world into chaos.

The film poses many philosophical questions: What are you willing to do for love? Is there only one path to happiness? Is our life predetermined or do we truly have free will? But the two most interesting questions it asks are: If the only way to get what you want is to sacrifice something or someone you believe you can't live without, would you still do it? and Have we always had free will?
The second question is inspired by The Fates's mini-history lesson about the generations of which we've had control over our own fate versus the generations they've had control. Supposedly they were the masterminds who designed our paths during periods of creation and innovation, like The Renaissance, but we were the misguided fools who spearheaded periods of destruction and regression, like The Dark Ages. I think it's interesting that given that this film takes place in present day, they claim that this is a successful period, considering all of the natural disasters, ever-increasing amount of wars, and rampant poverty. It hardly compares to the Renaissance. But it makes an interesting point. What sparks a period like The Renaissance?
The first question has bounced around my head before. Sometimes I wonder, having been raised Roman Catholic, if the only way for a good thing to happen is for a bad thing to happen first. Did my high school friend Suni have to suffer the loss of both her parents just so she can find true love? Did my mom have to get in a car accident just so she can be freed of her burdensome job? Will I have to suffer some great trauma, whether it's the loss of my parents or a bout of unemployment, just so that I can fall in love or get my dream job? And, most importantly, am I willing to forfeit what I have for what I could have? It's like that classic "Price is Right" question. Will you settle for this brand new car or do you want to take a gamble on what's behind door number 2?

This film is, however, a romance. It propels the idea that love is the only thing you should aspire to, and the only reason we exist. And that maybe, just maybe, the Fates can be wrong if they dare to suggest that professional success is far more important than true love. There have been many other romantic stories that have been told in unique ways (i.e. The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind) that suggest that no matter the foreseeable tragic outcome of a relationship, one must pursue it nonetheless, because the answer to the question: Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? is Yes.
Despite the heavy philosophical questions and intense chase scenes, there are several light and funny moments during their courting, like in the scene where she says goodbye by playfully flipping him the bird. Blunt was more charismatic and enchanting in this film than she's ever been before, and she got to showcase some more of her impeccable comic timing. She also had great chemistry with Damon. His devotion to her wasn't at all unfounded or seemingly random as some romantic stories can be. The fact that he clicked on 757,000 links to find her alone was proof enough. He falls for her because she kept him on his toes and didn't pander to him like his constituents did. She ultimately inspires him to be a better politician--if such a thing exists. They complimented each other well.

While I truly enjoyed the love story, I was surprised that it didn't have more sci-fi lore and action. Instead it was like a rom-com that mutated into a sci-fi thriller, as if someone at the studio said, "What if two people keep crossing paths and fate keeps them apart..." and then someone else added "...and Fate wears fedoras, works for God, and uses magic doorknobs to catch up to them." Regardless, it makes for a good conversation starter.

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