Thursday, 17 March 2011

Where Did You Get That Hat? [Review: The Adjustment Bureau]

Adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, The Adjustment Bureau is a more light-hearted movie than I expected, going easy on the paranoia and the reality-bending metaphysics and adding elements of comedy and romance.

It's also reminiscent of several other films. It's a story about the power of love overcoming the power of fear, with magic doors as a symbol of the choices we make in our lives - great, but Mike and Sully got there first. The idea of our world being organized precisely by a secret cabal of control freaks was explored superbly in The Truman Show, itself a PKD-style slice of paranoia. Unlike Truman, Matt Damon's character is shown the true nature of reality early in the film but is sworn to secrecy.

The Adjustment Bureau - Seasonally Adjusted

The plot centres on the romance between Matt Damon's would-be senator David and dancer Elise, played by Emily Watson. In the grand scheme of things (which for the purposes of this film is a literal concept enforced by the mysterious Bureau), they're supposed to meet once but never see each other again - a series of chance encounters throws them together and threatens to derail the plan.

The romantic element is not ironic and borrows heavily from the standard fate-obsessed rom-com blueprint as seen in Serendipity but I forgive them, because when David makes his obligatory sprint to the chapel to stop Elise marrying someone else, his out-of-breath you-were-meant-to-be-with-me speech doesn't win Elise's heart over but makes him look like a psychopathic stalker.

I also liked the idea that, unlike the Truman Show's production crew or the Men In Black, The Bureau agents themselves are error-prone and tied up in bureaucratic red tape: as a result, although they are less threatening it's a much more interesting organization. Douglas Adams would be proud: bucks are passed, memos are taken down and things are kicked upstairs. The hats are also a nice touch, and as with those MIB sunglasses they are there for a reason.

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