Path ill logical
I won’t deny that The Adjustment Bureau has an interesting idea at its core. Hey, it’s loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story (“The Adjustment Team”), and he’s the genius responsible for mind-bending tales that led to great films like Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly.
Writer-director George Nolfi has chosen to adapt Dick’s story to the screen for his directorial debut. While it’s certainly an ambitious undertaking, the movie is a mess suffering from an identity crisis, with the actors seemingly uncertain of what kind of movie they’re in.
Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a rough-edged politician running for a New York senate seat despite a checkered past. He’s commanding a big lead going into the final lap, but the New York Post finds and runs a picture of Norris mooning a camera from his frat days, and this does not bode well for his political aspirations. Damn that pesky New York Post!
Before giving his concession speech, Norris meets sexy dancer Elise (Emily Blunt) in a hotel men’s bathroom. She’s hiding in a stall while he’s rehearsing his speech aloud. They start chatting, commence to making out, and then split up for what should be forever because it’s Manhattan, and they didn’t exchange phone numbers.
Inspired by Elise’s hotness, David delivers a brutally honest and unrehearsed concession speech and positions himself as a rebel and potential political superstar.
Even though the odds are against them, the two meet up again on a bus, and this time David gets her phone number.
But hold on, some mysterious, dapper guys in hats were supposed to prevent their meeting from happening. It turns out there’s a secret society of magical mystery dudes who conspire to keep people on their predestined paths. Every individual’s life has been mapped out, and somebody named “The Chairman” is tasked with keeping everybody moving forward on their particular paths.
The dudes in the hats don’t think David and Elise are supposed to be together, and they’re getting a little fed up with David’s persistence when it comes to his love life. His path is to eventually become President, but if he goes off with Elise, both his political destiny and her future as a world-renowned dancer are in peril.
So they take Norris behind the scenes, essentially reveal this major mystery of the universe to him, and threaten to lobotomize him if he ever mentions a word to anybody.
At first, the concept is intriguing. But, as the film moves on, it all becomes a bunch of hooey.
In one portion of the movie, you have Damon and Blunt thinking they’re in some kind of cosmic, mystical love story. But the film doesn’t contain enough enchanting romance to classify it as one, with Damon and Blunt lacking any major chemistry.
Then, there’s the science fiction aspect of the story, where the Adjustment Bureau dudes can speed from one location to another by going through doors that act as shortcuts to different locales. (A door in Yankee Stadium can lead to a subway exit miles away … oooh!) They’re able to pass through these doors if they’re wearing hats.
Norris, who wants them all to screw off, gets some of the secrets from sympathetic Adjustment Bureau guy Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), who tells him the secret society can’t get to him when it’s raining, or some bullshit like that. So this leads to a finale where David is trying to break up a wedding while running like crazy through the rain wearing a fancy hat. Not the stuff of great science fiction.
The ending is a predictable riff on how we can ultimately choose our own destinies. Too bad Nolfi didn’t choose a different path and make his first movie out of something less complicated than a Philip K. Dick short story. It proves to be a little too much for him.