Sunday, June 9, 2013

Promised Land (2012)

It could be argued that Promised Land had the makings of one of the best films of 2012. It is beautifully directed, has performances that seem so natural it seems more like people shooting the breeze than acting and it has a script that allows for some dynamic interaction between characters.

It could also be argued that there is a moment about 30 minutes into the film that it goes off the rails as characters become less important and the debate of fracing takes over. It’s the moment that the film goes from being one of the best of the year to one of the most just okay.

The plot of the film has two advance men (Matt Damon and Frances McDormond) going into a small town to buy up the mineral rights so they can drill for natural gas. Things are going along swimmingly until the high school science teacher raises unaddressed dangers. This sets in motion a series of events, including the arrival of an environmentalist, that upsets the plans to get in and out of the town.

I really like this film a great deal. It has great characters, great dialog and it feels strangely like home. The problem with the film is that once the environmentalist shows up the film ceases to become a drama and becomes more a polemic about the dangers of fracing. The drama is reduced as we deal with arguments that mostly seem to say that fracing is bad. The discussion is minimal and worse, repetitive. I drifted in and out.

On the other hand when they stopped going over and over the same arguments and dealt with the human moments the film instantly picked back up.

Reservations and disappointments aside, I really liked this film a great deal. To me this is mostly good times with good people, which makes this a film worth seeing on DVD or cable.

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