Monday, December 31, 2012

Promised Land

Matt Damon and John Krasinski have written an excellent screenplay for "Promised Land" along with Dave Eggars about the impact that big business has on the future of rural America.  Gus Van Sant has beautifully created the vision of Matt Damon and John Krasinski by reminding the audience that two hours outside of any city looks like Kentucky (where Gus Van Sant is from) and accurately sets the tone that the story being told could happen anywhere in America. 

The story begins with Steve (Matt Damon) refreshes himself with clean water on his face before he returns to a business lunch where he is being considered for a VP promotion within the natural-gas company that he represents.  He and his partner Sue (Frances McDormand) travel to a rural farming community in Pennsylvania to sell the landowners a future that gives them opportunities that they currently cannot afford.  Whether it be an education for their children or the comfort of knowing what financial security really means. 

What seems like an easy job for the Steve and Sue, given that the community has been hit hard by the economic decline in recent years, becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by Dustin (John Krasinski) who counters Steve both personally and professionally for the attention of Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt) a teacher who returned to the community from the big city after her father passed away so that she could keep the family farm working.

The film tackles the debate about fracking, the controversial drilling technique that has been hailed as an economic boon and reviled as an environmental nightmare.  The film doesn't necessarily portray the controversial drilling technique entirely in a negative way, but instead implores the audience to make a decision for itself.  Both sides of the argument are valid and there isn't a clear right, or wrong, answer.  You can't necessarily say that if you are against fracking that you must be for petroleum, or that if you are farmer that the decision to lease the land is better than the farm subsidies that the government provides for the crops.  Certainly natural gas is a clean energy source to those using it, but the impact on creating it is still not entirely known.  I am not an environmentalist, but I do believe in the individual right to choose and that to properly make the decision requires the appropriate amount of research and information.  Frank Yates, portrayed by Hal Holbrook, is exactly the spirit the movie should inspire.  The information is readily available, and the lure of a quick payday shouldn't be taken lightly. 

I would be shocked if this movie doesn't receive several award nominations.  Among the more likely would be Matt Damon for Best Actor, John Krasinski and Francis McDormand for Best Supporting and a shared Best Screenplay nomination for Matt Damon and John Krasinski.  Gus Van Sant might also deserve some consideration for Best Director of what is easily a Best Film nominee and a 5 Quack film. 

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