thedeadparrot (thedeadparrot) wrote,

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

There are movies that stick with you, even if they are not so good. The Adjustment Bureau is one of those movies for me. I saw it for the first time a couple years ago, and I was just thinking about it again, so I guess I'll word vomit about it a bit.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. It has an undercooked premise. It exists mostly as an awkward adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story that loses so much of the characteristic paranoia in the process. The ending is limp and nonsensical and not satisfying. The worldbuilding is all over the place, and the plot can only drive its action one way: people running away from guys in suits and hats and coats!!! Quite frankly, it deserves its middling 72% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But here's what I love about it. It is a movie that captures a feeling and a place and even a time in such a surprising, low-key, and understated way. This shouldn't work with its high concept premise, and quite frankly, it probably doesn't. The movie is about this heightened, ridiculous love story that should collapse in on itself, but somehow, the movie holds back, lets its actors play off against each other, and the emotion it gets out of that is real. It's earned.

Would it have worked better as a movie about a guy meeting a girl and falling in love without cosmic forces trying to keep them apart? Honestly, I don't know. The plot is a little too simplistic. The emotions are too straightforward. Really, it's a fairy tale, but there's a magic to that.

And it's a New York City movie. Not in the way something like The Departed is a Boston movie, where it needs to assert itself as happening in particular cultural place, but like the rest of the movie, letting things run in a low-key way where the director's love of the city feels threaded throughout. It doesn't need to call attention to itself. It just is.

I saw it for the first time two years ago, and I rewatched it last year. It was a lot worse the second time around. It's easy to forget the things that didn't work and to only remember the things that did. There were more groan-worthy moments, more eye-rolls, more 'wtf, how long is this awkward chase scene?' But the parts that worked? They still worked. And I'm still writing about them now. So.

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Tags: movies
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