Promised Land is a slow and un-affecting film. The acting is decent, the direction is good enough, but as a whole the film leaves no impression.
Promised Land follows the plight of Steve Butler, played by Matt Damon. Steve works for a natural gas company and travels to farming towns to lease land for fracking. The film isn’t too preachy, but the emphasis on “fracking is bad” is obvious.
Fracking, for those that don’t know, is a method for drilling and obtaining natural gas that lies miles deep. Its a controversial subject, one that many in Hollywood have taken a public stance against. There are many other social and political subjects the film could have used as its backdrop and be far more entertaining. Whether or not fracking is the next big environmental controversy, the fact is its just not a thrilling topic. Even something cliche, such as global warming or the economy, would have been far more engaging.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter and star of Promised Land John Krasinski (The Office) said himself that when he was planning to write his first film he wanted it to be about an American struggle. There are many more prevalent subjects, in my opinion, that better exemplify the current American struggle. The intention was good, the execution falls flat.
Promised Land isn’t without its moments. There are a few laughs here and there for which you can thank Frances McDormand (Fargo, Burn After Reading). Her great comedic timing and lovable portrayal of Sue Thomason, Damon’s coworker, helps keep this film above water. McDormand and Damon have great chemistry and play off each other in a very natural way. Their character’s relationship is the most honest and real-to-life feeling aspect of this film.
Damon and McDormand’s characters each have an odd, half-baked love story worked in. Damon falls for a local farm girl named Alice, played by Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married). It is hard to even call them love stories, because there is no sense of relationship building. It could be argued that McDormand’s “love interest” was never meant to be much of anything, but the time spent on the relationship development does suggest otherwise. The film gives and takes in a way that is supposed to build the tension, but ultimately does nothing. Not for one instance did I feel any kind of emotional weight for either of these characters. The relationship between Damon’s Steve and Rosemarie DeWitt’s Alice was so unbelievable that it just felt like an anchor dragging down the film as a whole.
The script for this movie was it’s greatest downfall. For a movie that is 1hr 46mins, not much really happens. The film doesn’t feel excruciatingly slow, but it definitely drags its feet the whole way through, ironically. There is never enough time spent on character development to make me feel significantly attached to anyone. The film doesn’t reach for very high emotions, but never even grips me to the point of interest in where the characters may end up.
All in all, I’d skip this one. Redbox it maybe. Just maybe. There are even better lazy Sunday alternatives than this.