Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cranky at the Movies

First -- apologies for not blogging for so long. I was without Internet access for a week while closing out my just-sold house, a sobering experience. We don't realize how wired-in we are until we're not.

But I did go to the movies a lot, including the new contemporary fantasy, ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. In this film, an "Adjustment Bureau" of super beings invisibly keeps humanity from going to pot by discreetly nudging human affairs as necessary. Complete free will, after all, has not served the world very well. One "agent" explains that the last time it was tried, Europe slid into the Dark Ages. Hence the supernatural interference from time to time.

The current interference is to prevent two characters, a budding politician and a gifted dancer, from getting together and falling in love. If they do, we're told, [NOTE: SPOILER ALERT] they will so distract,
content, and otherwise fulfill each other that he won't go on to be an influential president of the USA and she'll won't revolutionize dance. So the movie becomes a struggle between the two to find each other again and the Bureau to keep them from doing it.

This is amusing enough, and so is the look of the Bureau: all dark wood desks, shaded green lamps, and conservative dark suits, as if in a 1950's bank. The movie manages to use these contrivances to set up a real question: Which matters more, private love or the greater social good? It's a question that has driven much greater literature (ANNA KARENINA, AGE OF INNOCENCE). Given its romantic and limited parameters, the film sets this up convincingly.

And then it backs off.

The ending should, to be honest, choose either love or duty and then show the consequences of that choice. Had it done so, it could have been a highly interesting and controversial piece of art. But, like much of American culture, it takes the easy way out, with some platitudinous hokum about "the Chairman" being so impressed by the couple's love that He (or She -- this is left deliberately vague) will rewrite the entire Plan for all of humanity just so the lovers can be together. Too bad. What started out as what fantasy can do superbly well -- set up thought experiments on big issues, using characters we care about -- degenerates into drivel and pap.

Not recommended unless you walk out 7/8 of the way through.


bluesman miike Lindner said...

Is the hook really fiction, Nancy?
The "supernatural" rules our little blue world.

TheOFloinn said...

the last time it was tried, Europe slid into the Dark Ages

Shoot, that sort of historical illiteracy would turn me right off.

But except for the use of superpowers and the notion that the Plan can identify the futures of individual people, it sounds like IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND, with the Babbage Society gadding about nudging the juggernaut of history here and there to optimize the outcome. Except, being human, they had eventually nudged it to increase their own wealth and power.

Nancy Kress said...

Mike -- You're right -- it DOES sound like your book's premise.