Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gus Van Sant: Promised Land

Continuing on an upward trajectory that has revealed, layer by layer, one of the most fascinating ouevres in American cinema, Gus Van Sant crafts the entertaining if uneven, Promised Land. Working from an original script concocted by stars Matt Damon (his first since winning the Oscar for scribing, with Ben Affleck, Van Sant's standard Good Will Hunting) and John Krasinski, the helmer paints a quotidian portrait of movie small-town America in the face of the evil corporation manipulating it. The subject of "fracking" seems original, if filtered into a been there, done that plot about one man's awakening to the negativity and exploitation of the company he works for, and the purity of the simple life through the love of a good local woman.

Van Sant is a master filmmaker with an individual sensibility.His gift for delineating masculinity, family literal and symbolic, and the essences of reality and dreams, are pretty well suited to this simplistic tale. In the end, it all comes off as one of his "in between" movies, the more general fare he makes such as the aforementioned Hunting and Findind Forrester and the like, while dreaming of the textures and syntaxes of his more personal works, such as Gerry, Elephant, Last Days, and Paranoid Park. His cinematographer Linus Sandgren paints a soothing pallette of Americana in base colors, while Van Sant's regular composer Danny Elfman illustrates the action with a basic, lovely theme.

The cast is quite strong and lends a lot to the backbone of this good, if minor work in a great director's career. Damon, Frances McDormand, Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, et al, are all ideally cast. When its all over, we feel gratified yet pretty much forget it all on the drive home.

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