Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau and The Lincoln Lawyer

Last night I took a look at 'The Adjustment Bureau' with Matt Damon. Matt's getting a little chubby. He's getting that third-season-Star-Trek-James-T-Kirk look - you know, when Shatner can clearly be seen wearing a girdle under his Star Fleet blouse. Damon is getting that soft look, sort of pudgy. Not your leading man profile at all. His partner in crime, Ben Affleck, whom I saw a while back in 'The Town,' is aging much better, although granted, Damon is the better actor. I guess after staying in tip-top shape for the Bourne films has left him a little apathetic.

Anyway, this is a film that has a lot of promise for the first twenty minutes or so. Maybe longer. It's not bad at all for a bit, chugging along, laying out the exposition smartly, giving us great insights into Damon's politician character. He's about to lose a big Senate election and is alone in a bathroom when he accidently meets a whacky, clever and tender-hearted English chick. They meet cute (she has, inexplicably, crashed a wedding party and is hiding from security in a bathroom stall - a weak MaGuffin if I ever saw one), fall in love, and then he doesn't see her again for three years, although he tries to find her by googling her first name. I could have told him that wouldn't work.

Apparently, in the movie, there are 'case workers' who wear Sinatra-type hats that control the fate of the world. This is where the movie jumps the shark. Just let me say that again, it's so preposterous - apparently there are 'case workers' who wear Sinatra-type hats that control the fate of the world. Okay, that's better. So, some call them 'angels.' But they only have their powers, which include opening just about any door and stepping into another part of NYC (where the film takes place) WHILE they're wearing their hats. Without their Rat Pack hats, they're powerless. It is the way 'The Chairman' (God) keeps them from having too much power. Okeedokee, then.

I'm sorry, I have to write that one again, too. Without their Rat Pack hats, they're powerless.

The movie was written and directed and produced by George Nolfi, who evidently got the idea from a short story somewhere. Movies don't happen overnight. They take years. Especially big budget movies like this one. Nolfi must have given his life, for several years, to this idea about biblical 'case workers' who only have supernatural powers while wearing a gangsta' hat. Which, upon thinking about it, sort of takes on an 'Ed Wood' quality of absurdity and probably wouldn't be a bad premise in a Will Ferrell flick.

So the premise is this: the two are not supposed to meet. It's not part of 'the plan' (fate) outlined by 'the chairman' (God). In fact, if they DO meet and fall in love their respective lives will not unfold as 'The Chairman' wants, which is to say, Matt will not become President of the United States and the English chick will not become 'the most famous experimental modern dancer in the world.' I'm not making that last part up. 'The most famous experimental modern dancer in the world.' Which, to my way of thinking, is tantamount to being 'the most famous ceramic ashtray maker in the world.' Whatever. In any case, she won't be 'the most famous experimental modern dancer in the world' if she ends up with Damon. The best she'll do is 'teach modern dance to six year olds.' Which is meant to be a sad fate, but sort of made me do a double take at the screen. Anyway, the plan will be disrupted. And Damon won't be President because - wait for it - they COMPLETE one another. They won't need all this silly ambition.

Old Terrence Stamp, whom I've always liked, is the bad guy in this, the bad 'case worker.' He's out to give Damon a 'reset' (lobotomy) if they can't get these two love birds apart. The climax of the movie occurs during a long and physical chase through Manhattan. Now, Terrence Stamp, being approximately 85, can barely walk much less chase. But nonetheless it's a rousing chase, mostly because one of the good guy 'case workers' has lent Damon his Sinatra hat that allows the two lovers to enter doors in Harlem and end up at The Chrysler Building. Yep, that's what happened. He loaned his Sinatra hat to Damon for a little while.

Well, all's well that ends well, thank goodness. The Chairman decides to rewrite 'the plan' in the interest of love. And really, who can blame Him? It's clear the way these two playfully slap and punch one another throughout the movie that they're deeply in love.

YEARS of his life, this George Nolfi guy, dedicated to getting this film made.

Now don't get me wrong. Francis Coppola dedicated years of his life to get Apocalypse Now made. It's a life changing picture. A landmark film. A turning point in the way film was made. It was worth every second of those years Coppola waited and planned and begged and scraped and cajoled the studios into letting him make it. It's a masterpiece.

But this? The Adjustment Bureau? Didn't Nolfi know maybe he was off track when he wrote the line, 'Without our hats we're powerless!' Or when he wrote the line, 'Without you she becomes the most famous experimental modern dancer in the world!' Or maybe even the line uttered by one of the angels, 'This is above my paygrade. I'm gonna kick it upstairs to the home office.' Didn't he see the red lights going off?

The plot of this movie relies a lot on cell phones. It is my opinion that cell phones are the bane of the dramatist's existence. First of all, they quickly become silly in the world of film. Example, look at movies made only ten years ago. Everyone is carrying around cell phones that look like WWII walkie-talkies. But more importantly, the dramatist depends on lack of communication and inability to reach out for plot twists. And you can use the old chestnut of 'I've lost my signal' only so many times. No, it's best to not use or show cell phones in a screenplay. Otherwise two things happen, 1) the script is quickly an anachronism and B) the plot and action thrusts are severely handicapped. No, cell phones have really hampered good dramatic writing for the screen and stage, in my opinion.

My wife and I also watched 'The Lincoln Lawyer' the other night. I liked that one a lot more than 'The Adjustment Bureau,' mostly because it was basically a remake of 'Shaft.' Except the cool black guy was a cool white guy. Unfortunately, I can't write a lot about it because we watched it about a week ago and frankly I've forgotten everything about it except the fact that William H. Macy gets killed at one point. And I only remember that because my wife used to be really good friends with William H. Macy and she reminded me of that when he got killed. Otherwise, I can't seem to remember much about it. It didn't bore me, I know that. In fact, I think that was the tag line: "The Lincoln Lawyer - it won't bore you!"

As you can see, I'm in search of a good movie to watch. If you have any suggestions - recent movies preferrably - leave a message. If it's more than ten years old, I've probably seen it.

See you tomorrow.