“Promised Land” looked to be a likely Oscar candidate when information about it was first released. A drama directed by Gus Van Sant and co-written by Oscar-winner Matt Damon and John Krasinski, “Promised Land” combines a contemporary subject with traditional values which makes it an appealing film, though the latter third of the film completely changes tone and distances viewers.
Steve (Matt Damon) is a successful, highly-regarded natural gas salesman. On a routine sales trip, he and his partner Sue (Frances McDormand) attempt to blend into a community to earn its trust while making deals to frack (a chemical process to harvest natural gas) on the town’s farmlands. After a local science teacher (Hal Holbrook) questions the fracking process at a town meeting, independent protester Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) shows up to aid the environmental cause arguing against fracking, which puts a lot of pressure on Steve.
Matt Damon and Frances McDormand make a delightful duo; they are both easily likeable and play off of each other well. Their humor is complimentary while maintaining sincerity during the dramatic scenes. Their unified presence is the main appeal of “Promised Land.”
The first two-thirds of the film present everyone positively; everyone is well-meaning and likeable, but it’s obvious that Steve seems to be missing something behind his rose-colored glasses. The last third of “Promised Land” becomes abrasively too dark for the tone of the rest of the film; suddenly, a forced, contrived maliciousness overwhelms the pleasant and simple beginning.
“Promised Land” is a well-intentioned film taking on very current subjects- the state of the agricultural industry, greed, family and legacy, the environment, and obviously fracking- but it has a clear agenda that becomes glaringly obvious at the end. For a film with equal purpose, watch the documentary GasLand. “Promised Land” is more of a drama with genuine sentimentality that shovels in a heavy moral at its finish.
Rating for “Promised Land:” C+
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Promised Land” is playing at the majority of theaters in Columbus, including Gateway and Arena Grand, though expect showtimes to dwindle over the next few weeks if it’s not nominated for the Best Picture Oscar on Thursday. For showtimes, click here.