After gaining stage experience in the New York Shakespeare Festival, the baby-faced Asian-American de la Fuente made his TV debut in a 3-part "ABC Afterschool Special" entitled "Summer Stories: The Ma...
The age-old debate over fate vs. free will has been and always will be a tough theme to crack in any medium but with the benefits of modern filmmaking technology the theory can be explored in ways that Philip K. Dick never imagined. However when one relies too heavily on spectacle to tell a story a piece of cerebral science fiction can quickly become just another action extravaganza. In this day and age there’s a fine line between the two; The Matrix walked that tightrope with style and grace while Next never found its footing in the first place. Fortunately the precious work of novelist Dick has for the most part been treated with respect by Hollywood (the aforementioned Nic Cage dud notwithstanding) but that doesn’t necessarily mean movies based on his stories are completely faithful to his vision.
Case in point: George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau an adaptation of Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team.” The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris a successful businessman and rising political candidate who after a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt) loses a crucial election. He happens to run into her on a Manhattan bus the following week before finding his office swarming with masked men who are “adjusting” everyone inside. Richardson (John Slattery) the man in charge captures Norris who unsuccessfully flees the scene after seeing behind “a curtain he wasn’t even supposed to know existed” as the enigmatic figure puts it. From that point on Norris must live with the knowledge that he (and we for that matter) is not in control of his own life. Rather the choices he makes fit perfectly into “The Plan” that’s been written by “the Chairman”.
In relation to my earlier statement I have to say that Nolfi’s picture looks stunning but his natural urban aesthetic doesn’t overpower the story. Sleek contemporary production design and elegant costumes characterize the high-concept story and the wraithlike agents who shape our destinies. Topically we’re dealing with some heavy material but Nolfi and editor Jay Rabinowitz move the action along at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and entertained without having to try. The film is properly proportioned as a chase thriller romantic adventure and sci-fi fantasy and thankfully no component overshadows another.
Setting the film in the world of politics and big business helps make its larger-than-life revelations a bit more accessible (as do appearances from Michael Bloomberg Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough) while providing sub-text about the corruption involved in elections and campaigns (there are conspicuous shades of The Manchurian Candidate in the movie) but the writer-director often tries too hard for broad appeal. For a film with existential implications as severe as they are here the dialogue is at times hokey and superficial. Dick’s source material is far more abstract and Nolfi for the sake of commercial success panders to the palette of soccer moms and mallrats.
What’s worse is his unwarranted exposition of the Bureau a shadowy organization whose major allure is anonymity. Some secrets are best kept and less can be so much more when crafting a mysterious atmosphere; Nolfi reaches that level of magnetic curiosity but squanders it as he reveals the truth about the Bureau and its grand scheme. On the other hand he brushes over the technical lingo between agents Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar) and others without explanation perhaps hoping that the ambiguous terminology will fool you into thinking that his script is smarter than it really is.
Even though Nolfi’s allegorical conclusions are uncomfortably ham-fisted the chemistry between Damon and Blunt alone is enough to enchant you; this is one highly watchable cinematic pairing that should be revisited as soon as possible. Their innocent relationship blossoms organically and together they make it seem as natural on screen as it is for their star-crossed characters. Even if you have a hard time believing in higher powers or manipulative Orwellian forces you’ll have faith in David and Elise’s fated relationship one of the most captivating couplings I’ve seen on the big-screen in some time.
Three stories involving three quite different contemporary women facing circumstances that are radically changing their lives unfold sequentially. In the first story Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) a tough promiscuous working-class mom dumps abusive husband Kurt (David Warshofsky) and leaves their trailer with her kids for shelter at the home of Fay (Mara Hobel) a former classmate whom she once saved from humiliation but hasn't seen for years. Delia begins her new life by taking on a waitress job at the local restaurant where she proceeds to give an aggressively flirtatious young customer a humiliating lesson in female power. Another sequence tells the story of Greta (Parker Posey) an ambitious publishing drone who gets her big break when she brilliantly edits the manuscript of hot young writer of the moment Thavi (Joel de la Fuente). Greta's vulnerability is brought to the fore when she realizes she's attracted to him even though she has a sweet husband. Her emotions are further stirred by her background--her father is a demanding and oft-married liberal Jewish lawyer--and by her awareness that changes in life are inevitable. Paula (Fairuza Balk) is a punky aimless young woman who deserts Vincent (Seth Gilliam) her live-in lover who rescued her from a park bench many months earlier and takes off in her car to visit her mom. On the way she picks up runaway Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci) who arouses her maternal instincts especially after Paula discovers that he's a victim of physical abuse. But Kevin is not everything he seems to be nor is Paula.
Perhaps the best reason to see Personal Velocity is to catch the terrific performances of Kyra Sedgwick indie queen Parker Posey and the always delightfully quirky Fairuza Balk. Sedgwick is uncannily convincing as the trashy but decent Delia; Posey whose previous roles have sometimes veered close to caricature does a fine job here subtly portraying Manhattan publishing princess Greta and Balk effortlessly finds and humanizes her lost soul character.
Above all writer/director Rebecca Miller (1995's Angela) displays remarkable confidence in her sophomore turn as filmmaker. Miller wisely knows how to dwell on a moment a face a gesture so that the full emotional value is mined. Working with Ellen Kuras a fine cinematographer who here shows her finesse with video Miller delivers a visual canvas perfectly suited to her characters and their dilemmas but even more importantly orchestrates her actors' outstanding performances.
TV series debut as regular on Fox sci-fi series "Space: Above and Beyond"
Feature film debut, "Roommates"
Appeared with The New York Shakespeare Company in Central Park productions of "Two Gentleman of Verona" and "All's Well That Ends Well"
TV debut in 3-part "ABC Afterschool Special", "Summer Stories: The Mall"
After gaining stage experience in the New York Shakespeare Festival, the baby-faced Asian-American de la Fuente made his TV debut in a 3-part "ABC Afterschool Special" entitled "Summer Stories: The Mall" (1992). He played a small role as a college student in the comedy-drama feature "Roommates" (1995). As part of a military pilot squadron in "Space: Above and Beyond" (Fox, 1995-96), de la Fuente played a character with an overly curious nature that often resulted in trouble.