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If Matt Damon & Co. really wanted to make a movie that would scare American audiences off of fracking for good, they should have just made a movie dramatizing fracking’s potential threat to America’s beer. Instead, what we get is a quaint love story wrapped in a conspiracy movie, draped in a toothless political polemic, festooned with mawkish aimlessness.
It didn’t have to be this way. Promised Land‘s script was originally developed with Dave Eggers, the acclaimed, award-winning author. The film offers the considerable acting skills of Damon, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, John Krasinski, and Scoot McNairy. And, due to the hotly controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the movie has had the honor of being slammed by the Heritage Foundation and petroleum lobbyists.
Promised Land is also directed by Gus Van Sant, a man who has a keen artist’s eye for both mainstream fare and indie grit. (Yes, Van Sant and Damon are reunited, so beware of the lame and painfully obvious Good Will Fracking headlines.)
See? Nothing but good résumés and intriguing publicity behind this movie. And yet it putters out into both embarrassment and creative lethargy, fueled (if that’s the term I want) by an acute lack of focus and commitment. Promised Land struggles to compel just as much as it fails to inform. By the film’s end, Matt Damon will have taught you precisely two things about fracking: That it’s bad for cows, and even worse for heartfelt dramatic monologues delivered by Matt Damon.