Sunday, June 26, 2011

Men in Hats

The Adjustment Bureau may be the best "men in hats" movie since Rusty Cundieff's Fear of a Black Hat. And this is not my left-handed attempt to praise the movie with faint damns. There is real appeal in first time director George Nolfi's grim fairy-tale about the path of true love. The two leads, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have a lot to do with this. Improbably there is real chemistry between them. I say "improbably" because this is a role that should be essayed by a young John Edwards and would have better suited Damon's brother-from-another-mother, Ben Affleck, or Blunt's real-life husband, John Krasinski (The Office), to name two. Matt Damon is miscast as David Norris, the charismatic political wunderkind at the core of the Bureau in much the same way he was miscast as Jason Bourne and the talented Mr. Ripley. Which is to say, he is terrific.

When The Adjustment Bureau was released three short months ago, it seemed a little improbable that the political freight train that was the senate campaign of Congressman Norris could be derailed by the inopportune release of college pictures showing him mooning his frat brothers but, of course, this was before Weinergate and the circus of the absurd that dominated the news cycle for nearly two weeks. Norris goes down in inglorious defeat but all is not lost as he and Blunt meet "cute."

Then boy-loses-girl and they meet cute again when angel-cum-organization-man Anthony Mackie literally misses the bus. This is noteworthy because it quickly becomes apparent that it is imperative to the Men-in-Hats aggregation that is the Adjustment Bureau to keep Damon and Blunt separated at all costs. Why? Who knows. Suffice it to say that the Big Boss Man has a plan and it is verboten to deviate from that plan. When you do veer off course, as Damon repeatedly does, the Men-in-Hats must make adjustments to get you back on the straight and narrow. Damon is such a tough nut to crack that the Men-in-Hats must do something they have only done once before - they tell Damon everything and then attempt to coerce him into compliant complicity.

When senior Man-in-Hat John Slattery, who wears his fedora as nattily as he does on Mad Men, fails to talk sense to Damon, the even more senior Terence Stamp is brought in to "hammer" Damon into commission.

On the whole, The Adjustment Bureau is a little pokey and the business with the hats is a little hokey (as a unrepentant hat wearer I cannot condone the profiling - "never trust a man in a hat") but, as mentioned before, the chemistry between Damon and Blunt is appealing and the last act all-or-nothing flight from downtown Manhattan to Liberty Island in New York Harbor is quite rousing.