The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Free Will Hunting

Although Philip K. Dick is a writer who is also a philosopher pondering the meaning of existence, he has been a rich source for science fiction material.  The original material for The Adjustment Bureau was about a shiver in the universe as a seemingly meaningless event was “adjusted.” The only witness to the adjustment simply went home and got on with his life.  But the greatness of the existential story by Dick rests within the reader who wonders, once again, why life turns out the way it does.  Is there a master plan for all of us? Is there anyone in charge?

Such a question is naïve and immature, a child’s need for reassurance that there reasons for the world being the way it is.  The fact is that there is no master plan, we don’t learn from our mistakes or from history, and the universe is pitiless and arbitrary.  I prefer the philosophy of Terminator: “The only fate is the one you make.”  The Adjustment Bureau attempts to be as gutsy as Terminator as the protagonist tries to make his own fate but all it has going for it is the lovely pairing of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt and hats, lots of hats.  Magic hats, magic hats that open doors.

Need I say more?

Not really, but I just want to add that this could have been an interesting movie. Many people have life changing and life altering decisions to make and one of the most fateful decisions is marriage.  In the film, Matt Damon, a possible President in the making, learns from his new friend at the Adjustment Bureau that he will never want political power again if he marries the woman he loves.  Unilaterally, he decides to pursue love but he never tells Emily Blunt that, if she stays with him, she will not become the “most famous choreographer in the world.”  He takes for himself all the free will he wants but grants her none of it.  Just come with me he says, and she follows along, thanks to the magic hat, through magic doors.  And, of course, at the end of the journey, yes, Virginia, there is a Magic Man Upstairs.  Each one of us has a little book with a plan in it. How comforting.

But why not let the couple just talk about their choices? Fame, fortune or marriage?  The movie stated that Damon would have been so happy that he would have lost the desire to be president in his marriage.  However, it was made clear that Blunt would see all her dreams and ambitions thwarted and no one mentions happiness for her.  Damon seems to assume that she would be wiling to forego all her dreams for him.  What a great twist the film could have had if she had been apprised of her choices and if she decided, no, I need to dance for the rest of my life more than I need you.  The movie could have ended there, the universe shuttered and time reshuffled back to the launching of Damon’s presidential career.  The end.

As the presence of Mad Men’s John Slattery warns us, The Adjustment Bureau is an old-fashioned romance.  Love is more important than a career.  Now that’s a Fifties idea.

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

The Arts Blogger


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One Response to “The Adjustment Bureau (2011)”

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