The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

February 9, 2013

Promised Land: Does It Live Up to the Film’s Promise?

Saturday, February 9, 2013 — I have been a fan of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck since they won the Oscar for “Good Will Hunting.” You remember their acceptance speech I am sure. They attempted and succeeded in copying the enthusiasm of Cuba Gooding Jr. from the year before. The difference was that Gooding won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Jerry Maguire” (1996) while Damon and Affleck, who were not as well know in 1997 as they are now, won their Oscars for Original Screenplay. When I say I have been their fan for sometime, I am not referring to their body of work as actors, though I enjoy most of that; I am referring to their efforts behind the cameras.

Damon and Affleck acted as producers on a small film I adore entitled “Stolen Summer;” one of the best films about faith I have ever seen. I have written before about how much I liked Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” that he wrote and directed. His film “Argo” is, in my opinion, the best film of the year. And after 15 years, Damon and Affleck’s screenplay for “Good Will Hunting” is funny, smart, moving and powerful no matter how many times you watch it. They are good actors, but they are great filmmakers.

Therefore I headed into “Promised Land” anxious to see the film that Matt Damon co-wrote with his co-star John Krasinski. (For the record, Kraninski’s greatest film is one of the best films ever made about parenting, “Away We Go;” a film directed by Sam Mendes, the same director who just made the most successful “James Bond” movie in franchise history.)

First, allow me to say “Promised Land” offers some beautiful scenery of farmland. Second, Damon, Kraninski, Frances McDormand and Rosemarie DeWitt are all good in their roles. Damon and McDormand walk the acting tightrope of being likeable even though their characters practice deception as a vocation. One wants to root for them because these two are so charming and yet what they do for a living is as dishonest as robbing banks. Perhaps the old farmer Frank Yates says it best to Damon’s character, “You’re a good man Steve, I just wish you weren’t doing this.” Hal Holbrook, who delivers the best performance of the film, plays Frank. (Holbrook was nominated and should have won the Oscar for “Into the Wild” in 2007.) Good performances and cinematography are important elements.

Gus Van Sant directed the film which is not one of his best. But with a canon that includes “Good Will Hunting,” “Finding Forrester,” “To Die For,” “Elephant,” “Paranoid Park,” and “Milk,” he has set a pretty high standard for himself. The film is not directed poorly, there is just little flare to this straightforward story of natural gas versus the environmentalists.

The screenplay has some strong moments. The film attempts to conquer an important subject, one that should be considered. The dialogue is informative, insightful and often witty. But in the end, the film falters in its climax. Looking back over the whole story, it just does not ring true. If the point of the film is to raise an issue, and offer arguments, it succeeds on some level. But if along with the message, the story is also supposed to succeed as a narrative, it stumbles and never recovers. I wish it were not so, but “Promised Land” does not hold up to the promises that a gifted cast, director and writers offer the viewer for much of the film.

During this review I have listed several films all of which are much better than “Promised Land.” Before you rush out to see it, think twice and rent “Good Will Hunting,” “Stolen Summer”,  “Gone Baby Gone,” “Into the Wild” or “Away We Go.” Any one of these is a film to remember. I doubt I will recall much about “Promised Land” in the days ahead.

Roger Thomas reviews films for The Stanly News & Press in print and online.

Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    NEW YORK - Economists love hamburgers. Specifically fast-food burgers. This is partly because all right-thinking human beings love ground meat on a bun, but it's also because the sandwich makes a handy yardstick for international financial comparisons. The ingredients and labor involved in preparing a Big Mac are pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world, so by looking at how many hours of toiling it takes a worker to earn enough to purchase one, you can get a sense of how wages really stack up across countries. The Economist famously created the Big Mac index in 1986 to see which currencies were overvalued. It started as a joke. Now, as the magazine proudly notes, it's a subject of academic study.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    WASHINGTON - What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Doug Creamer All in the Family

    We had a family get-together at my brother’s house on Easter Sunday. It’s hard to get our family together because we are spread out, especially when you consider nieces and nephews. My parents and siblings all made the gathering this year. Some of my nieces and nephews are far away, but they all remember gathering at my brother’s house for the holidays. Easter is known for the Jell-O eggs and the famous Easter egg hunt.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 19, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    WASHINGTON - The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 19, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content