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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Adjustment Bureau

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Adjustment Bureau

As it turns out, there really IS a man upstairs and his name is The Chairman.  At least that’s what his suit-and-hat wearing employees call him (all men, by the way).  They are dispatched whenever things don’t go according to cosmic plan, which happens more frequently than you might think.  After they’re finished “adjusting” matters, the continuance of the Grand Scheme of Things is assured.

It’s none of their concern if you don’t like it.

Mike Norris (Matt Damon) is a charismatic New York congressman on the verge of a senate victory that suddenly sours when an indiscreet picture emerges showing him in a “full moon” pose at a party.

Immediately before his concession speech he meets a mysterious woman named Elise (Emily Blunt) in, of all places, a stall in the men’s room.  She’s on the lam from security, having just crashed a wedding in the same hotel.  She’s also attractive (well, duh!) and quirky and just as charismatic as he is and the two click like a mighty seatbelt, secure in a sudden connection with a stranger. Except, they’re not, and Elise leaves in a mad dash to escape security personnel.

Norris is inspired to make an eloquent speech that ignites interest in him as a viable political figure once again.  Of course he’s smitten with the elusive Elise, even more so when he encounters her on a bus the next day.

Fate steps in – literally- in the form of mysterious businessmen, in conservative suits and hats, who command extraordinary teleportation powers (it’s a door/hat combo that makes it all work).  Norris is ambushed in his own office and warned never to see Elise.  It’s just not his destiny according to the Chairman who controls the Grand Scheme of Things.  Hence the fleet of fate-ful executives hastily dispatched to convince Norris of her unsuitability.

There are bigger and better endeavors awaiting Norris and a liaison with Elise would just impede them both, like a big cosmic monkey wrench in the finely wrought machinery called Destiny.  That’s what the suits explain, at any rate.

Will Norris and Elise ever be allowed to pair up?  Hook up is a different matter – this is Hollywood after all.

Adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick, the film knocks us over the head with how wonderful Elise is…almost ad nauseum.  She’s got a strong British accent despite living and working in the U.S. for years, but hey, what guy wouldn’t be a sucker for that?  And she’s a slender professional dancer with a wicked sense of humor.  Elements of rom-com “meet cutes” filter into the fascinating premise and dilute it with formulaic clichés, limiting the story’s potential for originality.

Damon’s Norris is surprisingly bereft of any other female companionship despite being a popular public figure.  He even gets to take the bus unmolested around New York.  Blunt’s Elise must be savvy, saucy and mischievous, so that we get it about those two…and get it…and get it.

You’d think the Adjustment Bureau in all of their superior wisdom, would have planted some enticing fem-bait for Norris to be distracted by instead of letting him moon over his forbidden fruit.  Instead, they fixate, along with Norris, on JUST ONE WOMAN.

Writer/director George Nolfi (Ocean’s Twelve, The Bourne Ultimatum) adapted Philip K. Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team” for the screen, creating a forbidden love story instead of Dick’s unsentimental but fascinating concept of corporate overseers and political superpowers.  Where were these guys when the likes of Hitler and Stalin needed adjusting?  That, they let slide, but boyfriend/girlfriend matches they must veto as if world peace were at stake.

If only Nolfi had steered the story into more original territory. The premise is fascinating and surely possesses possibilities (global, ethical, psychological) beyond a forbidden attraction between two consenting adults.

The only adjustment here, especially for PKD fans, is from anticipation to disappointment.

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