Home > Movie Reviews > Apparently, you can have your cake and eat it too: on immorality in The Adjustment Bureau (1/5)

Apparently, you can have your cake and eat it too: on immorality in The Adjustment Bureau (1/5)

There is a moment in The Adjustment Bureau when Thompson, one of the elderly “adjusters” traces the light and dark periods of history in terms of the Adjustment Bureau.  “We tried to give you free will,” Thompson says, “and you gave us the Dark Ages….Humanity just isn’t mature enough to take care of itself.”  This little tidbit was so convincingly executed that I can imagine the entire story stemming from this one little observation: the writer, at his desk, reading history, perhaps, and envisioning a group of men in suits – modern day angels or something – who take care of people.  This evolved into a Bureau, because that sounds more sophisticated, and in order to keep people interesting, a male and female lead were introduced.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know that The Adjustment Bureau is about David Norris (Matt Damon) as a rising politician who meets and falls in love with a dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt).  Unfortunately, they are not “meant” to be together because it is not in “the plan” that is written by “the Chairman.”  Thus, even though they feel such passion for each other, they cannot be together, and the adjuster caseworkers will do anything to keep them apart.

Damon and Blunt seem to do the best that they can, with the limited room this convoluted script has given them.  Orion and I had planned to see this movie a while ago, but were warned against it by our friends, Feifei and Brian.  Having just seen it with my family, I have to thank them for their warning, because everything they said was true.  The Adjustment Bureau is filled with disgustingly arbitrary limitations and rules: for example, adjusters must wear special hats in order to travel through a teleporting-door network, and have their powers dampened (no pun intended) by the presence of water.  The story tries to play on the Matrix-esque idea of the illusion of free will, only it fails to live up to anything of the broader themes it contains.

Not only all of this, but the characters are terribly simple.  Elise’s dancing is great – her practice and performance are perhaps the only visually arresting scenes of the film – but that’s all that’s great about her.  She’s described as a loose cannon, and to me, seems pretty much like a weak incarnation of a manic pixie dream girl.  For several scenes, she inspires a crazy side of Damon’s character by throwing his Blackberry into his coffee, hiding in the men’s bathroom, crashing weddings, etc.

Unfortunately, in later scenes, when things get serious, Elise completely falls apart.  She can’t handle the idea of the Adjustment Bureau, as anyone would expect, but goes along with David anyway; he literally drags her by the hand through teleporting doors, running from agents.  Her character supposedly feels a connection to David, but never once reaches out to him; we see David think about her every day, riding the same bus for three years in hopes of running into her, but Elise just goes along her own way.  When David vanishes from her life, she takes offense, rather than assertively attempting to seek him out.  Is this the kind of pathetic female lead audiences go for?   What weakness!

But that’s not the worst part of this movie; in fact, it could even be overlooked were it not for the very base of the movie being corrupt.  In this movie, David is trying to fight against people telling him what to do: in one scene while he is trying to outrun adjuster agents, the taxi he hails crashes, leaving two people injured.  But David doesn’t care – he doesn’t care because he’s in love, and he’ll do anything to find the girl on his dreams, even if it means throwing all his work out the window.  I suppose the writers wanted this to show the magnitude of his love, but all it shows is David’s immaturity.  This individualist attitude is ridiculous: the Bureau has a larger plan, written by a Chairman (implied to be God), but David just ignores it.  Even later, when it is revealed that by being with Elise, David will ruin her dreams as well, he still can’t let go – he is selfish enough to try and see her still, despite all the warnings he has been given.

So what, then, are we to make of The Adjustment Bureau?  The action wasn’t even that good – it’s a lot of running around more than anything else.  Damon and Blunt have some cute conversations, but that’s it; besides the campaigning, Damon’s acting feels misplaced, and the same goes for Blunt.  Of course, the movie has a happy ending, in so rewarding the selfish, individual and telling the audience, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Overall, 1/5 – it’s clear that this movie was thoughtlessly crafted, and lazily written.  It’s convoluted in an attempt at sophistication, but not even Brooks Brothers suits can conceal the disordered plot.  Elise is an example of everything weak in a female lead, and David is an example of everything selfish in a male lead.  In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with the state of movies right now.

Best regards,



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  1. June 10, 2014 at 12:52 pm

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