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.
Top Story: Hawaiians Keep Local on Idol
If there is one thing TV viewers have learned from the third installment of Fox's American Idol it's that the best singers don't always necessarily win, and judge Simon Cowell was right when he said Hawaiian native Jasmine Trias owed her home state a lot of thank you letters. Instead of getting the boot for her mediocre performance this week, Trias got a boost from the Aloha State. A Verizon spokesman told The Associated Press Thursday of the 29 states in the phone company's local territory, only New York and California logged more calls on its network than Hawaii after the show aired. The AP noted Hawaiian viewers also benefit from a less-crowded calling period to cast votes since the state is six hours behind the East Coast. To sweeten the pot, many in Hawaii are campaigning for Trias, including, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a local newspaper, a radio hosts and a TV news anchor at KHON, who signed off with a reminder to vote for Trias. In the show's finale, which airs May 25-26, Trias, Fantasia Barrino or Diana DeGarmo will be the crowned American Idol and win a coveted record contract.
Rupert Gets $1 Million Survivor Consolation Prize
Rupert Boneham, the bearded giant from Indianapolis, won the $1 million consolation prize during CBS' special edition of Survivor All-Stars Thursday night, which host Jeff Probst jokingly referred to as America's Tribal Council. During the Sunday night finale, CBS had called on fans to vote one of the losing 17 contestants of Survivor All-Stars a second million-dollar prize. Following winner Boneham in the votes were Tom Buchanan, Colby Donaldson and "Boston Rob" Mariano-who lost the show's initial $1 million prize to his fiancée, Amber Brkich. And get ready for more Survivor love-fest: Mariano and Brkich, who became engaged during Sunday's live finale, said a network had approached them about televising their wedding.
Frasier Crane Has Left the Building
The multiple Emmy-winning NBC comedy Frasier ended it 11-year run Thursday night with its trademark antics: Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and wife Daphne (Jane Leeves) welcomed their first child, while Martin (John Mahoney) got hitched to Ronee (Wendie Malick). Series star Frasier, Kelsey Grammer, made the decision to leave Seattle and accept a new job hosting a TV show in San Francisco. But the surprise came during final scene, which showed Frasier in a plane touching down with the pilot announcing, "Welcome to Chicago"--the city where his potential soul mate Charlotte (Laura Linney) had just moved. The touching farewell will surely fuel rumors of a possible spin-off in the Windy City.
Jackson Prosecutors Want Gag Order Upheld
Santa Barbara County prosecutors submitted a letter to the state Supreme Court Thursday asking that a gag in the Michael Jackson child molestation case be upheld in order in order to maintain an untainted jury pool. The letter comes in response to a request from news organizations to lift the gag order, which bars anyone connected to the case from talking about it. Attorney Theodore Boutrous, who represents the news organizations, said in an interview the prosecution's attack on the news media access was unusual. "The notion that public information should be limited in cases where public interest is the highest offends First Amendment values," Boutrous said. The Supreme Court has asked both sides to submit arguments by Friday.
Kelly Rowlands Engaged to Dallas Cowboy
Columbia Records announced Friday that Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland is engaged to Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams. Williams proposed in New York on Monday in a room filled with friends--including fellow Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles, AP reports. Rowland and Williams, both 23, haven't set a date for the wedding. They have been dating for about six months. Rowland, who won a Grammy last year for collaborating with Nelly on the hit single "Dilemma" from her solo albumSimply Deep, is due back in the studio with Destiny's Child next month to record a new album.
Weinstein To Publish Memoirs
Publisher HarperCollins announced Thursday that Miramax film studio co-founder Harvey Weinstein is writing a memoir. Weinstein, known for his feisty temper and producing critically acclaimed films, will tell the history of how he and his brother Bob grew up in a "lower-middle class" household in Queens, New York, and founded the studio named after their parents, Miriam and Max, Reuters reports. "This book offers a great opportunity to share many of the lessons I've learned about the business world and the entertainment industry over the past 25 years," Weinstein said in a news release. The book is due out in 2006.
Osmonds Beef Up Security at Mother's Funeral
The Osmond family has upped security for Olive Osmond's funeral after being informed of rumors of a $30,000 bounty for a photograph of the family matriarch in her coffin. According to the AP, fans contacted the Osmond Brothers to let them know them a Web site had posted a rumor offering money for "a photograph of Mrs. Osmond with the children around the coffin mourning, but they want her in the coffin." Osmond family spokesman Ron Clark didn't corroborate the rumor, but said extra security had been added for the Saturday funeral at Provo's Oak Hills Stake Center, a meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Olive Osmond, mother of Donny and Marie Osmond and other members of the Utah entertainment family, died Sunday of complications from a stroke at the age of 79.
Role Call: Bruce Almighty Sequel in Works
Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Spyglass are in talks to mount a Bruce Almighty sequel based on the freestanding script The Passion of the Ark from Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg. According to Variety, but the plan is to court Jim Carrey to reprise and to have Tom Shadyac return as director.