Review: Promised Land
A pair of natural gas representatives head to a small town to persuade the farmers to sell their land and a dying way of life to try and make money, and survive.
Who’s in It?
Matt Damon stars as Steve Butler, the noble, everyman American, genuinely trying to help people as the glorified salesman. His cohort, Frances McDormand, contrasts sharply, wearing the warm face for the crowd, but maintaining a business attitude. While in town, Butler crosses paths with the lovely schoolteacher Alice, played by the very lovely Rosemarie DeWitt, but finds both a professional and personal opponent in eco-activist Dustin Noble (see what they did with the name there?) played by a welcomed presence in John Krasinski.
Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant team up once more as a writer-director duo respectively, as they did in Good Will Hunting, with Damon this time joining efforts on the screenplay with Krasinski, creating a compelling drama that skirts the line between subtle and overt symbolism and metaphor.
Butler gives his case for natural gas, a process that will see farm land dug up and perhaps completely destroyed, while in front of an American flag, talking about how he grew up on a small farm. While his intentions are pure and true working for a giant corporation, his partner Sue (McDormand), happily lies to get a sale. The two of them offer some of the funniest moments in a movie that is surprisingly humorous, though rather darkly.
Thankfully, all the characters, from the two salesmen to the elder farmer and science school teacher, to the local shop owner, are not easily categorized stereotypes. There is a bit more to everyone in the film, including Alice and Dustin, creating various forms of professional and personal conflict that make Promised Land fascinating.
It doesn’t mean, though, it doesn’t get a bit on the nose with the message. Even the name itself, has duel meaning. Butler looks for signature, requiring people to guarantee their land to his company, but it’s as much about the American promise, the American dream, as anything else. You can continue in your way of live, whether or not its failing and the country as moved past you in time, or you can give it all up in the hopes of making millions.
It’s simple, occasionally in your face, but so well-written and featuring such a likeable cast, all giving fantastic performances, that you can’t help but enjoy a story that keeps you rapt from the start.
“Are you the owner of this place? No? Then why are you doing all the work?” Matt Damon, to every child he meets.
Should You See It?
Well, yes, at some point. Whether or not you are craving farm scenery and endless rolling green landscapes on the big screen is another story.