Promised Land

In Promised Land, Matt Damon once again teams up with director Gus Van Sant of Good Will Hunting fame. Unfortunately for both this movie fails to deliver the same movie magic that once propelled their careers.

In Promised Land, Matt Damon plays an up and coming salesman for a big time natural gas company. Coming from small town USA, Damon uses that familiarity to connect with people from various small towns in order to buy up the town for the less than standard price of other sales reps in the company. It is because of this that Damon has an opportunity to become a Vice President in the company as long as his current sale goes through. Teamed up with his partner Frances McDormand (Fargo), the two start out on a door to door effort as “town saviors” to buy a rural town facing hard economic times.

Everything seems to be going smoothly until a council meeting where the local science teacher played by Hal Holbrook, (Lincoln) objects to the safety of the drilling process and the possibility of destroying their town rather than saving it. To make matters worse, John Krasinski (Away We Go) arrives in town as a small environmentalist who is on a grass roots effort to stop Damon’s big company from destroying the town and challenges Damon for the affections of a local love interest played by Rosemarie DeWitt. (Rachel Getting Married)

Promised Land is not a bad movie, it just that is it also not very good either. The pacing is slow and the movie is very simple. This is the kind of movie that should be on the hallmark channel. That is not to say that a simple movie cannot be done well, it is just that when faced with a simple story the movie needs to be carried by outstanding performances and those performances need to be supported by a solid script. That being said, the film does not accomplish this goal.
The performances are good but not great. Led by Damon and McDormand the entire cast plays well off each other and delivers solid performances. Krasinski interaction with Damon is also noteworthy to set up the rivalry and competition between them causing us as an audience to almost pick sides between the two men and what they stand for. Krasinski and Damon co-wrote the screen play for this film and it shows as their two characters a basically played as foils of one another and have some of the best interaction on screen.

However the film was ultimately doomed for me when the story tries to provide Damon with a redemptive opportunity that I just did not buy. I cannot go into it without ruining the film but let’s just say the story wants you to believe that Damon will make a certain redemptive decision but does not do a very good job of showing that Damon has changed up to that point or why. To help accomplish that, the film gets us to dislike Krasinski in an unexpected twist that ultimately causes us to dislike him as well. This unexpected move felt like it cheapened the whole experience, which left me really disliking everyone in this film except for McDormand, because at least we know who she is and what she is about.

It is because of this that I do not know who the audience for this film is. It has good but not great performances, the pacing is slow, and by the time the credits roll you may end up disliking almost everyone in the film. It is because of that I recommend you save your money. If you must see it, capture it on the hallmark channel in a year or two.

2 stars out of 5