[Editor’s Note: Script reviews of upcoming projects have been around for as long as there’s been an Internet. Therefore it’s no secret that a film can evolve into something quite different from its screenplay. Please keep in mind that this article represents a look at a particular script and not the final product.]
They say exposing Hollywood’s liberal sucker punches is like a drug, and Big Hollywood’s secret script source had just handed one over that was practically ticking: The Adjustment Bureau, coming out in March. John Nolte ran down the situation for me: Zinn-loving Hollywood half-wit Matt Damon is the star. He plays a liberal politician. And since it’s a fantasy, the liberal politician is the hero.
This could have been the H-Bomb of sucker punch movies. I knew that if I didn’t handle it just right it could detonate and splatter me with razor sharp shards of progressive clichés and jagged fragments of left-wing memes. “Suit me up,” I said, “I’m going in.”
Sweat collected on my furrowed brow. I cut the red wire. Nothing. I cut the blue wire. Nothing. I had defused a sucker punch dud.
I was actually let down. Where was the thrill? I felt like trotting over to Safeway and acting bewildered by all the choices in the cereal aisle.
Sure, I’m disappointed – you don’t need me if a movie doesn’t treat half its audience like borderline morons. But The Adjustment Bureau still has some important lessons – like how to be a liberal, make movies according to your vision, and still not gratuitously alienate potential moviegoers.
First, a quick look at the plot. We’re not here to blow the lid off of the script’s surprises, so if you want more detail it’s probably lurking out there on the web. In short, the story involves the aforementioned Matt Damon as a liberal congressman with a fateful destiny that an unexpected infatuation threatens to derail. The infatuee is a quirky ballet dancer – she’s wacky in a kind of “Look at me! I’m wearing Doc Martens with this vintage prom dress!” kind of way that is only slightly less tiresome on-screen than it is in real life.
I just assumed Zooey Deschanel would be playing her, since by law she gets first crack at any of these roles that get stamped out of the Hollywood cookie cutter. But it appears Zooey had other commitments – maybe The (501st) Day of Summer – so Emily Blunt will play the aforementioned free spirit. You might remember her as the heavy-lidded starlet in The Devil Wears Prada who was not as quite hot as Anne Hathaway, but was somewhat hotter than Meryl Streep.
Anyway, their love must be denied for reasons that remain obscure to me even after reading the script. The deniers are members of – surprise – the titular Adjustment Bureau, a secret cabal that ensures that some unspecified universal master plan is fulfilled. Antics ensue as Matt Damon’s character decides that hooking up with a too-chatty, mediocre chick is more important than saving the world.
The script by George Nolfi (who will also direct) is competently written and reads well. That’s actually high praise. I peruse a fair number of scripts, and they tend to confirm my worst fears about the state of public education. But this one is coherent, uses some big words -correctly – and generally kept my interest at a mild simmer throughout. Look, I’m not this romantic movie’s target demographic, my body being flooded with roiling torrents of testosterone and all, but I’ve read worse. Much, much worse.
Sure, in some of the publicity photos I’ve seen Damon looks like he’s playing dress-up as a congressman- Presenting Matty, the Boy Politician! In others, it looks like he’s just seen Barry Bonds’s ex-doctor as he drags a skeletal Emily Blunt along the wet-down street. With that ironic retro hat he looks like a bulky hipster.
Note that the hat plays a role in the plot; I think it’s magical. Yeah, you read that right.
Now, Damon’s liberal congressman is supposed to be a great guy, but none of this revolves around his liberalism. People tell him he’s awesome because he “tells the truth,” but no one discusses what those unspoken truths are. He also gets in occasional fistfights, making me wistful for the long-passed days when Democrats were as pugnacious toward America’s enemies as they are toward other Americans.
In fact, except for some off-hand references to him being a Democrat, the only way you could tell he is a liberal is by the fawning suck-upery which he experiences from members of the media. Diane Sawyer appears in the script, which goes for gritty realism by depicting the kind of hardball interview questions left-wing pols face from the MSM every day (“Your awesome popularity is overwhelming, with many voters unable to decide whether you are the savior or the messiah. What are your thoughts on why your racist Rethuglican opponent is so jealous of you?”)
Who knows what kind of sucker punches might appear via some on-set improv by the talented Mr. Damon, but on paper it’s all fairly innocuous. Yeah, everyone he meets seems to love him for no apparent reason other than the script demands it, and there are references to his hero, JFK. At one point (*pseudo-spoiler*) the Adjustment Bureau functionaries imply that the fate of the world depends on this Democrat becoming president, but they quickly start chasing each other again and the moment passes. That’s about it.
Look, I’m not going to see The Adjustment Bureau. There’s not a gunshot, explosion or shower scene in the script. It’s got nothing for me. But if you like movies about love conquering all and people sharing feelings and magical hats, hey, give it a shot.
But you don’t need to skip it because of a sucker punch because there just isn’t one. A sucker punch comes out of nowhere, a secret first strike designed to disrespect conservatives and to give liberals chance for a smug laugh at our expense. Here, the character is who he is, but it’s not played at our expense. Tiresome? Yeah, a little – the assumption of the character’s awesomeness is a bit much. But it’s not Avatar-level tiresome.
George Nolfi has written a script that stays true to his vision (well, his adapted vision – it’s based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, which probably means something to sci-fi loving shut-ins) yet does not insult those he probably disagrees with. That should be encouraged – our point is not to make everyone conform to our vision. Our point is that if you treat us like dirt we won’t watch your stupid movies.
Sure, there’s the Damon Factor. A lot of folks won’t go see a movie with Matt Damon in it because he is such a leftist tool. I don’t go that far– in LA so many of the people we know work in the industry that we don’t boycott lightly. Damon’s annoying, but he doesn’t offend me to the core of my being. On the other hand, you best have a taser and cuffs if you want to get me into a movie with Hanoi Jane.
Will it be a good movie? I don’t know. It isn’t my kind of movie. But it does what we ask movies to do – it’s original, it’s at least mildly interesting and it doesn’t treat us conservatives like something you’d want to scrape off of your shoe before you walk into your house. If The Adjustment Bureau does bomb, it won’t be because of a sucker punch.