Tuesday, January 8

REVIEW: Promised Land

Directed by Gus Van Sant
2012 Drama
1 hour 46 minutes 
From Focus Features

Matt Damon
John Krasinski
Frances McDormand
Rosemarie DeWitt
Hal Holbrook
Titus Welliver


Two natural gas company sales people arrive in a small farming community with an offer they suspect no one will be able to turn down.  They set out to convince the townspeople whom they know have farms that aren't producing what they used to that they have valuable resources beneath their properties and if they sign away their rights and allow drilling, they will become millionaires.  Sounds simple enough, eh?  Who wouldn't jump at it?

Well, if the farmers jumped at it the film would be over in 15 minutes.  Some of you will no doubt wish it would be over in 15 minutes as well while others may be taken in.  From the time I first heard about this film a year or so ago, I always thought it sounded a bit more suitable for a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV production.  After seeing it, I am convinced this is the case.

Not that I didn't like it... I did, to a degree.  But these kinds of films-- let's call them about something important, issues of the day, messagey and lacking the sex and violence and car crashes-- usually don't fly with most of the less-than-discerning public.  One other problem is that at the beginning of the third act I think the film rather stalled, got kind of sluggish.  A section regarding a carnival just didn't work at all.  I expect Promised Land will have a short shelf life.

The filmgoers who may flock to it to some degree will be fans of Matt Damon.  His signature is all over this thing.  I expect it was a heartfelt project for him.  Not only is he the star, but he co-produced and along with costar John Krasinski co-wrote the screenplay.  At one point he was also on board to direct it but since that takes a lot more time than acting, he dropped out of directing due to conflicting schedules.  He asked his good pal, Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant, to take over.

I was more interested in seeing it due to the participation of Frances McDormand, an actress I greatly admire and one I believe is often under-used but she had a meaty part here and Damon's partner.

The ending I didn't see coming at all so I was quite surprised and you will have to be, too, if you elect to see it.

At the heart of the plot is a subject called fracking, all over the news these days and a recent segment on 60 Minutes which was informative as hell.  It is also highly controversial.  Briefly it is about hydraulic fracturing of the rock layer beneath the ground in an effort to release petroleum/natural gas.  The up side of this is the economic boon from securing these previously inaccessible hydrocarbons.  This is the side that Damon/McDormand are on.

The naysayers know that this process would impact environmental issues including contamination of ground water, death of livestock and issues with air quality especially with regard to chemicals.

If this is your thing, you are to rush to your local cinema while this film is still playing.  You would be better served by catching that 60 Minutes segment when it is rerun.  Nonetheless I thought it was a nice if rather bland film that had an important message. 

Glomming the Noms

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