Political filmmaking is a complete waste of time if the audience can't buy into the ideology that the filmmaker is selling - much less the entire storyline.
"Promised Land" is an anti-fracking film, meant to inform the public as well as to encourage continued debate and study of the practice of hydraulic fracturing. That would seem to be a worthy cause considering the ongoing public debate.
Fracking is a process used in natural gas wells by which millions of gallons of water and sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break up rock to release the gas. Scientists' concerns about those chemicals and their effect on the environment, particularly water, is a focus of the debates.
Matt Damon, John Krasinski,
Cinemark Tulsa, Promenade,
RiverWalk, Owasso, Moviestar Cinema,
Starworld 20, Cinemark Broken Arrow
1 hour, 46 minutes
(on a scale of zero to four
Actors Matt Damon (an Oscar-winning screenwriter for "Good Will Hunting") and John Krasinski (of "The Office") star in "Promised Land," and the two of them teamed up to write the script.
Their preachy screenplay has little interest in debate and more in showing the evils of fracking, as well as the predatory manipulation of rural folks through corporate greed, and only in the most obvious of manners.
The script would purport to be a politically important work, filled with enough humor to pass it off as entertainment.
That's apparently so that audiences will go see it, and that maybe they won't realize that the writers must think that moviegoers are as dumb as some of the rubes they portray in this Pennsylvania farming community.
Steve (Damon) is what they call a land man, and he arrives in town with his sales partner Sue (Frances McDormand) to tell the farm folks how they can see their way out of their lasting recession - by selling the drilling rights to their land.
How much Steve's natural gas company pays a family could depend on what is found beneath the soil, so why don't we get down to signing those contracts, Steve tells the hard-working people who by this point have dollar signs in their eyes.
This is how "Promised Land" begins, and we are given every indication that this is how it works every time. Steve and Sue sweep in and out of town, mission accomplished, because they are exceptional at their job of making people believe they have come to town as financial saviors.
This is a fatal flaw of the film, because they would have us believe that no one in these communities knows enough to debate them and put up resistance. But in this little burg, there's a former high school science teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) smart enough to question every word Steve says and turn it back toward a pros-and-cons conversation.
We're led to believe that Steve and Sue never face any organized resistance in these towns. But into this town swoops a young activist (Krasinski) making trouble for them, waging something of a guerrilla anti-fracking campaign that's somewhat effective. (Water that catches fire? Pretty dramatic.)
We're told that Steve and Sue are busy people without relationships, but in this tiny town both find romantic possibilities within 24 hours. Only in the movies - especially dumb ones.
Steve's connection is with a teacher (Rosemarie DeWitt) with her own parcel of land to consider, while Sue's is with a fellow (Titus Welliver is so good here) who owns a convenience store where you can buy guns, groceries, guitars and gas.
"Promised Land" would have us believe that when a resident over-buys an expensive sports car immediately after Steve has convinced him he's about to come into a windfall (which he isn't), that such an event has never happened before, and that Steve suffers a crisis of conscience that he's never before considered. These small-town folks are showing him the error of his ways.
A remake of "Local Hero" in a way? The kind of Capra-corn that only a Frank Capra movie-lover could appreciate? A political statement that will change the natural gas industry's way of thinking?
"Promised Land" is none of these things. It's a chore to watch, and it's hard to see any truth for all of the fiction.
Original Print Headline: Fracking fiction a chore to watch
Michael Smith 918-581-8479