The Healer and the Pirate

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Full disclosure: I would not be writing this blog if I hadn't gotten this cool shot of a theater in Florida.

But I did, and I saw The Adjustment Bureau in the cheap theater Friday. If you don't want spoiled at ALL, just gaze upon that spiffy old theater and then move on. If you want spoiled enough to get an idea if you might want to see it...




...I will say...




...there was more profanity than I expected, and an amorous scene...and...



...oh, yeah, the adjusters are probably angels (!) enforcing the plans of God (!!!!), which the Matt Damon character is railing against. Not sure whether or not I would've seen it if I'd known all that, even though not ALL the ideas were completely out of whack, and they were all INTERESTING. Stop here if you don't want more detailed spoilers.





OK! So obviously, I was not keen on the (fairly brief) gratuitous sex scene or the profanity.

Religiously...I read the writer/director intended to raise questions. Mission accomplished! (Of course, that was partly because the film brought up complex ideas of fate and free will...and partly because by the end, it seemed there were no rules.)

The story was that Matt Damon--er, ah...let me Google that...David Norris, New York Senate hopeful, meets a young woman, Elise, and instantly falls in love with her. He loses track of her and finds out that there's an entire secret society of men in fedoras making little adjustments to people's lives to make sure that everything in the world goes along with the Chairman's (point to the sky) plan. And the Chairman (look heavenward) does not want David to be with Elise. Despite dire threats and the bureau's best efforts, David searches for Elise.

Given the fact that the adjusters literally do point to the sky when referring to the Chairman, it's challenging to picture the (unseen) Chairman as anyone but the movie's version of God. One review I read said it could just as easily be an alien force; I think that's a possible interpretation, but kind of a stretch. I don't know, though; I'm not an atheist.

The movie doesn't state the adjusters are angels but it's heavily implied. But one of them is pretty open to going against the Chairman's plan. They also face random limitations that seem to come out of an X-Men-type film. Their powers don't work around water. They need their hats to do their cool bits of travel. Fun for Hollywood, but really, angels needing these random restrictions to their powers? So I imagined they had to be something different than angels...but not sure what.

I wonder if maybe they should be pointing DOWN when talking about the Chairman--that would make some sense with the water restrictions!--but then he shouldn't have been quite so powerful (IMO) and he wouldn't have been kind at the end...

To me the film did have some redeeming qualities. Superficially, there were some cool special effects (think Monsters, Inc. (!)), a lot of great shots of places in New York City, and even some humor.

Spiritually, the film did remind me that there is a Plan for each of us, and a world around us that we're not even aware of.

But contrary the movie--and I know this is to the exiles of Israel back in the day, but I still believe it in an eternal framework:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future....

--Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I love to imagine the possibilities that may stem from when we do what we feel God leading us toward. Like whenever I have to move, I spend a ton of time researching where to live. Where I am now, though, I just drove by and decided to check it out. The price was OK, the bathroom is wheelchair-accessible for my dad (less typical than you think), and it's been...fine.... But did God PUT me here? If so, why?

I once had a neighbor who was trying to study for a test to become a doctor, and she asked for my help with her computer. I think I was able to help her somewhat (there was a bit of a language barrier). I certainly didn't directly witness about Christ to her or anything (she was Muslim and I am a pretty severe introvert), though we did talk a little about religion. But could some good have come from it anyway? It's POSSIBLE that she actually went on to be a doctor and maybe even helped save someone's life, because I chose this place to live.

Now, is that likely? Who knows? But I like to think of all the amazing possibilities that are out there (which is what makes writing so challenging and exciting for me!).

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the film was the idea that on rare occasions the adjusters will step in and change your mind for you. But on the other hand, in the Bible, God DOES sometimes harden people's hearts or change their minds (see Pharaoh v. Moses, for instance). So the (scary) aspect of God sometimes changing people's thinking is probably true. Though I don't think it requires men in fedoras or machinery.

Anyway, as you can perhaps see, I enjoy thinking about possibilities, and the movie had some fascinating ones.

Unfortunately, there was a problem I don't see a way around. The moral of the story seemed to be that if you avoid your fate and go AGAINST the Plan the "Chairman" has for you, you will in fact get what you want, which is evidently kind of what the "Chairman" wanted all along. I wonder how that would play for Eastern audiences who often believe in a sacrifice of self for the sake of others. But to most people, I guess the idea that even the Chairman will back off in the face of true love is appealing.

I would've been interested to see what would have happened if David decided to seek and follow the "Chairman"'s plan, instead of weaseling his way out of it and it working out fine in the end. But I admit, I am not sorry there was a happy ending (though a happy ending where he didn't "get the girl" could've been interesting). I mean, I didn't expect a retelling of the book of Jonah or anything.

And in the movie's defense, I do think that there is a danger when people blindly follow what they THINK or have been TOLD is fate/God's will. We need to be careful to test everything and try our best to be sure it's from God.

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

--1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 (NASB)

We can't simply trust something is right because someone powerful tells us it's so. (Not even if they're wearing a fedora!)

But my own personal weaknesses tend to be trying to avoid God's plans, more than following a plan that wasn't from God at all.

Anyway, it's definitely a film that can inspire conversation, almost like Bruce Almighty in that respect. I can't say absolutely don't see it, but I wouldn't highly recommend it either.


  1. I generally don't read blogs, much less comment on them, but I recently saw "The Adjustment Bureau" with my adult daughter. What an exciting, delightful ride! While the good looks of Matt Damon, fedora-wearing mystery men and doors that open to other locales could seem like parts of a dream, in this movie, they are very enticing.
    Without such a thorough knowledge of the Bible, I feel inadequate to comment on such complicated spiritual themes as this blogger did, but I absolutely agree our Creator has a Plan for each of us.
    I simply found it refreshing that the movie spoke of a higher power overseeing us. When deciding if I wanted to see this movie, I dubbed it an "Action Romance."
    I think I was right. And yes, I would recommend this movie.

  2. Thanks, anon! I agree that it's pretty unusual to see reference to any higher power in action films!