Page 1 of 3
This Gus Van Sant/Matt Damon reteaming is no classic, but it's probably a lot better than you'd expect....
Universal / 105 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: April 23, 2013
Promised Land is by no means a notably accomplished movie, but it’s not exactly a dud, either. Honestly, the high-profile politico-aesthetic cred in its wheelhouse – director Gus Van Sant, star Matt Damon, original story writer Dave Eggers – is able to keep its undoubtedly clunky bullet-points above water with surprising consistency: especially upon repeat viewings, a film like Promised Land plays like the kind of picture that should absolutely crumble to the ground in every conceivable capacity, and the fact that it doesn’t is nothing short of a movie miracle.
Our myopic story takes us to a beautiful if benign Everytown, USA, where Steve (Damon) and his partner Sue (Frances McDormand) are trying to convince denizens that Global Crosspower Solutions’ frakking plans are the collective antidote for what ails their sagging community. Everything seems to be going okay until a crunchy hippie dude named Dustin (Jon Krasinski) shows up and argues that there’s a lot more in jeopardy here than the simple question of whether or not townsfolk cash Global’s checks.
Promised Land offers up a macro- and micro-view of the issues at its core, getting specific about what’s actually happening with the frakking process while mostly hiding any itemized dissection behind the gauze of interpersonal relations. Part of the reason the movie is able to keep its shape so succinctly is because Gus Van Sant is the perfect director for the job – he’s able to keep the aw-shucks mumblecore of Promised Land at a bare minimum, instead letting longing stares between Damon and local hottie Rosemarie Dewitt linger rather than overanalyze any of the political dimensions of the film’s potentially controversial elements.
It’s patently unsurprising why Promised Land went so thoroughly ignore during 2012’s award season – while you’d think the Academy had made a mistake not throwing their backs out trying to lure the film down well-publicized red carpet ceremonies, Van Sant and his company go so unabashedly out of their way to keep both the melodrama and the NPR-broadcast ethics of its understated nature that it’s easy to dismiss the movie as being whisperingly cursory, even pointless. But there’s something about it: agree or disagree, love it or hate it, as flawed as Promised Land might be, it’s the kind of film that sticks with you, if just for a day or two.