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5 March 2011

Alterations Needed

Last June, while in New York, I saw a movie being filmed on Fifth Avenue. After hanging around for a few minutes across the road, I heard it was a Matt Damon film so I decided to wait at least until I saw him. Poor timing of buses and other traffic meant that I couldn't even see where in the shot he was supposed to be at first but then I got him. I took a few photos and then crossed over the block to go on my way and ended up walking walking behind Mr Damon himself (accidentally) who asked if I wanted to take a photo with him before his agent confiscated him (but not before I snapped another photo). The first thing I did, of course, was find some wifi and load up IMDb to find out what the film was. Reshoots for The Adjustment Bureau, said the crowd-sourced wisdom of IMDb; I'd never heard of it but it did explain why Damon and all the extras were wearing big winter coats when it was a hot June day.

[Some spoilers may follow below Matt Damon.]

MATT DAMON!

Nine months later and The Adjustment Bureau made it to the cinema. I had to go to to see it because I'd seen the filming but actually, I quite liked it in its silly way, although how John Slattery coped with so much action after four years of Mad Men is a mystery even greater than The Chairman in this film (also, is John Slattery really only 48?).

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau is about a young, charismatic politician (Damon) and the powers that be that are willing to keep him there. Damon plays David Norris who is running for senator but a series of last-minute, foolish lapses of judgement on his part mean he is not expecting to win. In fact, he is in the men's bathroom rehearsing his "gracious loser" speech when Elise (Emily Blunt), a beautiful ballet dancer,  pops out of one of the stalls (as one does) and there is chemistry, there are fireworks, there's a kiss... In any case, Elise "inspires" David to go and be honest to his audience; to tell them the truth about the campaign (no, he didn't pick his own tie; yes, it did $70,000 or something ridiculous for someone to pick the optimal shoes) and as such, the crowd loves him even more. Perhaps the next senatorial race will be his. And then who knows what heights he might like to climb next!

The trouble is that he and Elise aren't "meant to be." And I don't mean "not meant to be" in girl-speak. In this film, there are people out there in the world making sure the rest of us stick to our prescribed plans. And don't go getting all "creative" and "free will" on them or they might have to lobotomise you. Of course, this makes me wonder whether the bureau were also responsible for the type of mischief in Sliding Doors; I'd like to think they have better taste. The bureau are on your side -- if you're someone who might turn out to be as important as David Norris, that is, and the bureau seem to take pride in getting to oversee special people. It comes with the territory of wearing a hat and being able to go through special doors. Oh, and having this device that looks quite a lot like a real-time-updating Moleskine that allows them to track the progress of their subjects and to see any potentially impending disasters that might need some adjusting. This gadget may be it is just a Moleskine iPad case with an iPad inside; the scene I saw being filmed was being shot outside an AT&T shop so the product placement would work.

Dick probably wrote this story while high (well, odds are...) and I'm not sure it translates perfectly well to "serious but thought-provoking action-sci-fi thriller" but funnily enough, it seemed to work. There really was good chemistry between Damon and Blunt and I was hoping for them to be end up together, against all odds and against all silliness. To be fair, apart from a surprisingly brief moments, you can almost forget this film has a sci fi component altogether and just pretend Damon's character is caught up in some non-sci fi conspiracy that has to do with a completely random reason that he isn't meant to be with Elise. Thanks to a crap series of releases, I haven't been to the cinema for several weeks so I hope my judgement hasn't been clouded, but I did rather like The Adjustment Bureau.

Thomas "American Beauty" Newman's managed to be haunting and uneasy throughout while coming across as beautiful rather than annoying. There was great filming across Manhattan too, and into Dumbo, in Brooklyn, from the Waldorf to the subway system, into MoMA several times and what looked a lot like the Top of the Rock. The scene I saw being filmed took roughly 15 seconds and involved Damon's character scouring Fifth Avenue looking for his lost lady love. Coincidentally, a lot of other scenes are shot near Madison Square Park, which is where I was staying on that particular NYC trip. Damon's character appears to live near there; actually, based on a regularly used establishing-shot bridge connecting the 24th and 25th Street buildings together, I think his character may even have lived on the same block as my hotel.

Coincidence? Well, either that or the Adjustment Bureau wanted me to stay there and see the filming so that I would want to see the film of my own "free will." Obviously, because they would have their own reasons for me to find out about how they operate...

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