11 August 2011

The Adjustment of Desire

**** (4.5 stars)

Film makers have been enamoured with love and life lost since the beginning of film. Whether it be Chaplin's Little Tramp in "City Lights" or Goddard's tragic prostitute, the sacrifice's we as a people make for the love of another or even ourselves has lead to our greatest triumph's and most horrible loses.

While watching "The Adjustment Bureau" yesterday, I kept thinking about those themes as well as Wim Wenders "Wings of Desire" and subsequent American remake "City of Angels". Remember when Nicholas Cage was good?

Wender's "Wings of Desire" (available on beautiful Criterion) is about a "melancholy" angel named Damiel who watches over Berlin, Germany; listening in on the populations thoughts. Eventually, he finds himself drawn to an equally lonely circus performer and makes the decision to become human. It is then that he begins to understand the subjects he has been observing and what it means to be alive. In the American version, the trapeze artist is a doctor played by Meg Ryan. It is refreshing to see a an American film that does not feature a happy ending, particularly a romantic one. Here, the love story ends tragically, as life often does; but the lessons and life lived by the Angel, even in such a short period of time, will forever change him. When asked if he would do it all again, knowing the outcome would be tragic, would he? The answer is immediately, "yes". To quote Nat King Cole and Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge"- "The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return".

"The Adjustment Bureau" takes a slightly different, more sci-fi than metaphysical approach to the same themes. Matt Damon plays a young, up and coming politician in New York who seems to have everything until he loses the big race. It is then that he meets a beautiful and mysterious stranger, the equally mesmerizing Emily Blunt, who instantly charms him with her laissez-faire attitude and provides the spark he needs to get back into his life. But, it's supposed to end there, in the Men's bathroom just before he gives his speech of defeat. Chance intervenes and they meet again, except they were never supposed to. Someone was sleeping on the job, literally. A group of mean dressed like J. Edgar Hoover's G-Men, are tasked with carrying out a master plan that involves preempting chance and keeping the world and human choice in balance. Once Damon sees behind the curtain, his life is forever changed.

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (love him!), it's a hard film to summarize without giving too much away. It's the kind of movie you want your friends to see so you can discuss and analyze it more fully. I do not envy the man who's job it was to cut the trailer! This is an important movie about life, love, destiny, and choice. It ponders the questions philosophers have been asking or aeon's- What is free will? Is there such a thing as destiny? Who created and controls the universe?

Veteran writer and first time director George Nolfi ("Ocean's Twelve", "The Bourne Ultimatum"), does an amazing job keeping the balance between action and emotion. Fast paced car chases dissolve into personally touching moments. One that will stick with me forever comes after Damon has been lectured by the Second in Command (How do I love thee, Terence Stamp). He reveals "The Plan" to Damon in hopes he will give up on his quest for the girl he shouldn't have and get back on the track his life is supposed to take. Like many of us when faced with hard truths, he is stubborn and runs from his planned destiny to see Blunt dance with her modern ballet company. It is after he see's her there that Stamp reveals the other half of The Plan- That everything we do, our choices effect those around us. Can we be unselfish enough to give up our own desires if we know it will kill someone elses? Can love conquer all? The answer awaits you at the end of this film and I won't spoil it here. Needless to say, I'm totally blaming the wine for why I became a slobbering mess by the end. A must see!