Sunday, January 6, 2013
THE PROMISED LAND 1/6/13
The Promised Land is a simplistic film which does not live up to any promise. It will be welcomed by those who are against "fracking", but it turns out to be purely propagandistic cinema - good vs. evil - starring MattDamon, a representative for a major Gas Corporation, who when we first meet him has been promoted to a high position in that company. Damon is so wishy-washy a character that I found him totally unbelievable having difficulty articulating his pro-fracking position as well as his shaky moral values. His partner in manipulating the populace is Frances McDormand - who is on her cellphone throughout most of the film, and does add a comedic presence to the movie, but not much more. I have heard better balanced anti and pro-fracking arguments on NPR than anything I learned in this conventional tale of righteousness.
The debate pits an ex-engineer, MIT graduate, greatly admired schoolteacher- Hal Holbrook as the voice of the fracking opposition who makes much more sense explaining the insidious consequences of fracking than poor Matt Damon who in his one intense scene speaks to local townspeople about "fuck-you" money which he doles out to farmers who allow the Gas Company drilling rights on their lands. The Fuck-You money Theory (if you have money then you can say "fuck you" to obtaining student loans for your kids, "fuck you" to having a mortgage, etc) speaks to money buying you that freedom. Damon's other "nemesis" is an "environmentalist" (John Krasinski) who starts a grass-roots campaign to make the townspeople aware of the dangers to their farms, their livestock and the drinking water, etc.
The plot is predictable with a predictable love story thrown in, and a narrative that has to resort to a "deus ex-machina" ending that is manipulative, unrealistic and totally out of character with the earnestness of Damon's early beliefs.
I was groaning and muttering under my breath, not only with the lame dialogue but with some of Gus van Sant's cinematic techniques that were so hackneyed that I could not believe that this was the same Director who did Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho, films that I have loved in the past.