“Promised Land” could have easily come off as a preachy film about fracking, which is the method of producing natural gas underground. Instead, the film, which marks is the third collaboration between director Gus Van Sant and actor Matt Damon, uses that environmental issue as a backdrop to tell a human story.
Damon plays Steve Butler, who happens to be a good guy working in a bad business as a representative for natural gas corporation, Global. He has been sent down by his employer to convince a small town community to lease their land for fracking as he goes door-to-door like a salesperson with his partner Sue (Frances McDormand). Everything goes according to plan for Steve and Sue until a well-informed high school biology teacher (Hal Holbrook) and a charming environmentalist (John Krasinski) prevents convincing all of the townspeople to lease their land to Global.
Written by Damon and Krasinski from a story by Dave Eggers (“Away We Go”), “Promised Land” is more about the characters than the story with a surprising amount of humor injected into it. While Damon turns in a great, but subtle performance as Steve, he is even better when he is teamed with McDormand as co-workers with different points of views when it comes to their job. Having the townspeople sign away their land does affect Sue whatsoever because it is just a job to her. On the other hand, Steve takes it more personally when some of the townspeople reject his offer. He wants the best for the townspeople because he grew up in a small town that collapsed when the nearby plant shut down.
While there is plenty to like in this movie, I felt the need to throw in a romantic subplot that involves Steve falling in love with a local schoolteacher played by Rosemarie DeWitt) was unnecessary even though it kind of works thanks to the performances of Damon and DeWitt. There is also an unexpected plot twist that makes the last 20 minutes of the film which includes a speech delivered by Steve with an American flag in the background.
Despite the romantic and predictable portions of the film, “Promised Land” is a character-driven and often humorous film thanks to Damon’s performance and his work on the script with Krasinski.
“Promised Land” is now playing in Hialeah theaters. Click here for showtimes.