The Ultimate Battle: Salesman vs. Farmers. Let’s get’s it on!
Matt Damon plays a salesman for a major natural gas company (so stow the “propane and propane accessories” quote) who descends upon a small town to tap into it’s natural resources, but finds himself having a bunch of problems with the locals, especially by a grassroots campaign led by another man (John Krasinski).
The topic of “fracking” is an act that has been brewing-around for quite some time and even though there have been some documentaries that talk about it, here and there, it was only a matter of time until Hollywood got their filthy, dirty paws on it and made a motion-picture, cinema-trip out of it. However, I don’t know how “Hollywood” Gus Van Sant is now, but hey, he made Good Will Hunting and that counts, right?
In case you aren’t familiar with the term, “fracking”, don’t worry, the film will let you know, every, single 5-minutes, too. It obviously seems like an action that makes people happy and filled their wallets/bank accounts, filled to the brim with moolah, but also, destroys the environment around us and makes those pot-smoking, peace-loving hippies all uppity, uppity. However, knowing this before-hand won’t do you any good and to be honest, neither will this flick because all of it just really seems to hit you over-the-head until you can’t take no more. Matt Damon is obviously a very political guy that likes to have his thoughts and opinions heard for the whole world, but maybe his script that he co-wrote with John Krasinski and Dave Eggers was a bit too much for him, or anybody else to really muster.
Instead of making this movie just one, big “message movie” that likes to talk a lot about what it’s declaring, Damon and his co-writers try their hardest to make us feel like there’s another story here worth watching and feeling something-for, even though we are all being preached-at from the highest choir. That highest choir, just so happens to be A-list actors and producers that may know a thing or two about how to make a good flick, but don’t know a thing or two about how to make one that can coincide with the point/message you’re trying to get across. It becomes over-bearing and by the third time that Damon’s character states, “I’m not a bad guy”, you start to think otherwise because who would really go on and on this long about a topic and a solution that could have been figured-out in a 5-slide Power Point production.
However, a 5-slide Power Point production is probably how long, in-fact, maybe even less, this flick could have been predicted in. Right from the beginning, we know how it’s going to start, how it’s going to coast-on through it’s story, and sadly, how it’s all going to end and what revelations are going to be made by that time. Yeah, there are some nice twists and turns that Damon and co. throws at us for good-measure, and mainly in hope to keep our eyes awake and our minds attentive to what’s going on, on-screen, but doesn’t do much good other than seem obvious. The message is obvious and so is the plot and that’s why I’m so surprised that Damon even co-wrote an intelligent script like Good Will Hunting because all of that fun, all of that flair, and all of that emotional-truth that was stuck underneath that whole flick, is barely even seen here at all. In my honest to god’s opinion, it’s all because Big Ben wasn’t around, and instead, is off doing his own thang and making a name for himself. Take notes, Matt. Start directing movies and see how current and cool you can stay.
I will say one-thing about Matt Damon here with this movie, that even though his script may not work to the best of his, or the film’s ability in keeping us interested the whole-way through, Damon’s performance definitely does and the guy once again shows why he is the most dependable actor, working today. Damon’s character, Steve Butler, may have an obvious-route he’s going to drive-on about half-way through, but Damon still keeps you on-edge, wondering when it may actually happen and whether or not we are going to be able to believe it or not. In a way, we do believe it, and that’s mainly thanks to Damon’s top-notch skills as an actor, while in other ways, we don’t just because it’s so conventional, but you can’t go wrong with Damon and the guy knows how to write some great lines, even if the only great lines are for himself, and him only. That damn Matt Damon! He’s always so stingy!
Playing his enemy, of sorts, is John Krasinski as an ecologist that challenges all of Butler’s way of living and making a business. Krasinski rarely ever plays dark roles like these and it’s great to see him really work with that aspect of his acting, while also making sure to keep his comedic-abilities in-tact, as well. I wish that Krasinski was given more than to just fuck around with Damon, in a way that makes it seem like he stole his girlfriend after Junior Prom, but with what he’s given (that he practically gave himself, if you think about it) and what he’s able to do, Krasinski does a very nice-job at it, and I really hope the guy continues to take darker, more-dramatic roles like these because even though that face may always be smiling and shiny, there’s still some darkness that’s waiting to just latch-out from underneath.
Frances McDormand plays Damon’s cohort that seems to be non-other than McDormand doing what she does best: the cool, older gal that still knows what it’s like to be hip, with it, and always one-step ahead of the dudes around her, no matter what it is she may be dealing with. Maybe that was a bit too much of a lengthy-synopsis of what type of characters she usually plays, but it’s the truth most of the time, and it’s the truth here and it’s still fine and dandy with me, because the girl is good with the act. She doesn’t seem to have much more going for her other than the fact that she may just be the brains behind the whole operation when it comes to what it is that they do for a living and how they make their business, but McDormand makes the most of it and in a way, would have liked to see a whole movie dedicated to her, where she was going around and dealing with this personal and professional-crisis, rather than seeing dudes like Matt Damon go through with it. Boo the men! Yay the ladies! That’s how I look at it here.
McDormand isn’t the only gal that gets to show the boys a thing or two when it comes to acting, nope, that honor also goes to Rosemarie DeWitt as the wild child of this small, rural town in Pennsylvania, who also just so happens to be the hottest, single-teacher in the whole world. Not just PA, the whole damn world! DeWitt has been on my “crush list” as of late, and she’s great here, especially in her scenes with Damon who just goes to prove the fact that the dude can make any great chemistry, with anything, as long as it has tits and a vagina. Seriously, they are great together and if it wasn’t for the whole fracking-issue popping-up every 5-minutes, I would have probably enjoyed their scenes together a whole lot more.
The rest of the cast is pretty fine, even if it is a shame to see how little they are used here. Hal Hollbrook is great as the knowing, elder farmer of this small-town that knows what fracking’s all about, why it’s not good, and why he doesn’t like it. Rather than making Hollbrook the annoying and obvious voice-of-reason throughout this whole movie and have us dreading his presence, Hollbrook actually comes-off as a sweet and tender, old-man that has come to terms with the way the world used to be and what it is eventually, going to turn-out to be. It’s sort of sad since how this hits so close to reality and what better person to deliver this reality-check than non-other than Mr. Hollbrook himself. Seriously, when the hell is this guy getting that Oscar!?! Lucas Black and Scoot McNairy show-up here as well, as the resident rednecks of the small town and as good as they may be, are still a bit over-the-top in the way that they are type-casted as a bunch of dumb idiots that work on a farm and don’t give a crap about anything else other than the big olde bucks. I’m sure that some of this is true, but it doesn’t need to be seen to try and get a point across even more. Come on Matt! Come on John! You should know better! You get your caviar and champagne from natural food stores!
Consensus: The topic of discussion in Promised Land is definitely an important one and what Damon, Krasinski, and Eggers get-across about it is an important-one, but it constantly hammers you over-the-head with it, that you begin to lose a care for what they say and an even bigger loss of care over the predictable story, and what direction it goes in.