Review: Promised Land

THE SETUP: “Why can’t these farmers understand that it’s more important to go for the money than save their pride?” thinks a corporate sales guy (Matt Damon) trying to buy local farmer drilling rights. “And why’s this hippy that looks like Jim from the Office trying to mess with my job?”

THE THOUGHTS: The last time I read “directed by Gus Van Sant and co-written by Matt Damon,” I was watching Good Will Hunting. It’s a movie I loved and it inspired the name of this website. I wish this movie had even a bit of that one’s heart.

Matt Damon is a guy that’s very passionate about a few things, I’m guessing a stance around fracking of land for the purposes of natural gas is one of them. I’m not here to sit on one side of the issue or the other, there’s enough stories you can Google to inform yourself. In regards to the storytelling of this movie though…wow, heavy handed much? This film is the equivalent of a baseball bat to the head in its “movie with a message” approach. I get it. No really. Damon, stop hitting me.

Besides that, there really wasn’t much more to cling to. The importance of the issue was high because the characters in the movie told you it was, not because the audience felt it. Some sense of drama  or raised stakes would have helped quite a bit. Because you can’t just make a movie about an issue, there was an obvious “let’s add quirks to the corporate shills so they can seem like people” attempt. It just felt forced here. Frances McDormand was far more naturally interesting in the story than Damon but they were both just along for the “THIS IS WHAT WE THINK” ride.

What I did like: the farmland scenery was beautiful, it’s great to see Hal Holbrook in anything to class up the joint and Rosemary DeWitt is a welcome addition to any flick. John Krazinski plays the environmental element in the film and I was surprised how much I liked his portrayal. How it turns out for his character is not what you’ll expect and I have to say, it was my favourite part of the story.

2 stars – it’s a renter. I’m usually a fan of Matt Damon’s work. Whether he’s kicking action (Bourne Trilogy) or dramatic (The Informant!, The Departed) butt, but I think his passion for the subject matter here prevented him from making a more effective and good movie.

Random Recommendations
Coen Brothers Film Noir
Blood Simple (1984) – When I’m looking for links in the reviewed movie to something I can recommend, it’s always nice having Frances McDormand in there. Makes it easier. Before the “Coen Brothers” was a big deal, they started out with this film noir which includes all the great “noir” elements: jealousy, private investigators, cheating and everything going wrong.

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