Boiled down, The Adjustment Bureau (Universal, 3.4) is about a team of cosmic fate orchestrators doing all they can to prevent David Norris (Matt Damon), a rising New York politician, from marrying or committing to a longterm relationship with Elise Sallas (Emily Blunt), a gifted dancer. These two have met and fallen for each other in that dippy, lost-in-each-other’s-gaze sort of way, but they can’t partner up because this will somehow hinder or block each other’s progress in life (including a possible occupation of the White House by Damon).
This, at least, is how Thompson (Terrence Stamp), a top-dog orchestrator, explains the situation to Norris in Act Two. The “plan” must be adhered to, he declares, and here-today-gone-tomorrow spiritual connections can’t be allowed to get in the way. Variations on this theme are passed along by two other orchestrators, played by Anthony Mackie and John Slattery (the white-haired Mad Men guy), from time to time. And from time to time I was saying to myself, “Damon and Blunt are good together and it’s cool that this movie is using almost no special effects, but otherwise this is lame, man.”
Partly because it’s hard to take the orchestrator guys seriously, to be honest, because of a regrettable decision by director-writer George Nolti to have them wear small-brimmed businessman hats — the kind you see on Mad Men, or the kind that William F. Burroughs used to wear to poetry readings, or that FBI agents used to wear during the Eisenhower days. All I know is that I felt an urge to bail on this thing the second I saw those hats. Especially when Slattery showed up. They might as well have been wearing black-and-white Reservoir Dogs suits.
The main thing is that The Adjustment Bureau, for all its Mad Men tonalities and being based on a Phillip K. Dick short story (called “The Adjustment Team”), is selling the old swill about how nothing can get in the way of a perfect love match. In other words, it’s saying that even if Stamp and his cronies are correct about Damon and Blunt’s relationship getting in the way of their careers, it doesn’t matter. Live with it. Accept the fact Damon will never be elected U.S. President or that Blunt’s dancing career may not be as inspired as it might have been. Because finding the right lover/partner/mate is the most important thing there is.
That’s true to a large extent. If you can find someone of character who really cares for you and pulls his/her own weight and watches your back, you’re probably going to do a little better in life and be somewhat happier and maybe even live longer. But what Damon and Blunt show us in this film isn’t longterm compatibility or trust or the kind of loyalty you can take to the bank, but mutual interest and chemistry — mere delight with each other’s looks, personality and vibe. And that’s the kind of thing that always settles down sooner or later. Chemical attraction can lead to other things, of course, but it can just as easily fade away. The only kind of fluttery-heartstrings love that lasts is the unrequited kind.