The Adjustment Bureau

Off with his hat!


Does the fate of the world hang on the chance meeting in a men's room of an aspiring politician and a saucy ballerina? Yes. Well, maybe. Anyway, it does in The Adjustment Bureau. The movie is based on what I'd say was a hurried reading of an old Philip K. Dick short story called "Adjustment Team." Dick's story featured a talking dog. Watching the movie, I missed that dog. He could've been fun. But this is a film in which fun is not overabundant.

Fortunately, it does have Matt Damon, keen and likable as always, and Emily Blunt, to whom sauciness is second nature. They go well together; they have chemistry. He's David Norris. He was running for the New York State Senate before an embarrassing incident from his college days surfaced (dredged up by the damn New York Post, naturally), and he had to withdraw. She's Elise Sellas, modern-dance star on the rise, and just moments after meeting in that men's room (please don't ask), she and David are wrapped in a full-face embrace. Then she has to run off. Can David find her again?

It's going to be difficult. David is being shadowed by a quartet of slick-looking guys in gray hats, gray suits, gray ties, gray overcoats—wherever it is they're from, gray is clearly the new black. Their job, for reasons mysterious at first, is to keep David and Elise apart. They're pretty good at it, but not infallible. David keeps wandering off the reservation and getting back together with Elise. When David goes to work one day, he finds everybody in his corporate offices frozen in mid-motion, and the hat guys going over them in a garage-mechanic kind of way. They're doing a "recalibration," it seems. "We are the people who make sure things happen according to plan," says one of them, a fellow named Richardson (John Slattery, of Mad Men). "You've just seen behind the curtain you're not even supposed to know exists."

The plan to which Richardson alludes—or the Plan, actually—is the work of an unseen eminence called the Chairman. In olden Hollywood days, this would have been code for God, and the hat guys would have been angels. God being a nonstarter in movie land at the moment, though, this person is just the Chairman, looking down on Manhattan from his own corporate headquarters in another part of town. And the hat guys aren't angels. Or probably not. Take it or leave it. (Right-wing cultural-conspiracy enthusiasts will note with dismay that David is, for no relevant reason, a solar-energy proponent, and they'll no doubt have a good grumble at the cameo appearances put in here by people like James Carville, Wolf Blitzer, Jon Stewart, and even one actual deity, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

David has a covert ally on the hat team, it turns out, a man with the very earthbound name of Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie). Harry lets David in on several hat secrets, among them the locations of magical doors that serve as shortcuts for him and his colleagues to make their way around the city. (Open one door and you're in Yankee Stadium. Open another and you're on Ellis Island. I didn't notice a door into Per Se, with dinner and drinks comped, but it's something they might look into.)

Before long, the David-and-Elise situation starts getting out of hand—there's just no keeping these two apart. So the hat men have to call in an enforcer, a gent named Thompson. Thompson is cold, haughty, and sonorous—which is to say, he's played by Terence Stamp. He lets David in on another secret, one concerning David's future, which is all mapped out. All he has to do is never see Elise again. This is a tough call. Will David tell Thompson to stuff it? Will he opt instead for true love? Let's move along.

The trailer for The Adjustment Bureau makes the movie seem like a gripping sci-fi thriller. If only. What we have here basically is the old story about free will versus predestination—not a brain-twister of the first freshness. Writer-director George Nolfi might have been better advised to embrace the sci-fi side of the tale, and to whip up some much-needed cheap thrills. As it is, the picture has no tension, because the hat squad has no real menace. Its biggest threat is to prevent Matt Damon from attaining vast political power. In some quarters, that might be looked upon as a good thing.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

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  1. Matt Damon seems to be making a nice living these days portraying Some Guy who is always being chased by Somebody. Somebody evil. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    1. Shebah shebah bat bat dar dar zanga zanga

  2. The Philip Dick story this is based on is really good, BTW.

    1. “Based on” is a little strong. “Waved at” maybe.

      Agreed that the story is good.

  3. Look, many things can be tolerated as long as this question is answered positively: Does Emily Blunt show her bosom?

      1. +2, actually

            1. OMG!! Men like tits!! Who knew?

    1. It’s rated PG-13, so unfortunately not.

    2. I’ll buy that for a dollar!

      1. But seriously.. tits or GTFO

    3. Titties!


        1. A pig has twelve tits.

        2. no thanks, just a regular pig will do nicely…

    4. I didn’t see much but cleavage, but in the scene where we’re supposed to see what a great dancer she is, she DOES show her (covered) crotch several times. Just so you won’t miss it, the camera lingers and she “dances” very slowly.

      1. Ehh… Everybody shows a covered crotch.

  4. Damn! I had decent hopes for this movie. I guess it’s Battle: LA for me this weekend, since at least then I know what I’m in store for.

    You can’t screw up guns, aliens and ‘splosions with a bad plot. Just ask Will Smith.

  5. I do like the movie reviews – keep ’em coming, thanks!

    Kurt, thanks for the clarification that the trailers may be misleading. I thought for sure this would be a “highly actional” movie (as my son would say) based on them – maybe not so much? I’ll wait for it on cable…

  6. That fedora is just awful. That is not what a fedora should look like. That is a turdish jason mraz hat.

    1. That is not what a fedora should look like.

      Why single out that particular fedora for condemnation? Nobody in 2011 should be wearing a fedora of any kind unless it’s Halloween.

      When it comes to a dude in a fedora, all the chicks I know assume that he is:

      — a Jason Mraz-style cheeseball
      — trying to hide a bald spot
      — possibly both

      1. Agreed. And yet I see more men wearing them. And they’re all under 30 – the men, not the hats. I assume they’re being “ironic” or something. The men, not the hats.

        1. Many young men these days think masculinity comes from their clothes.

    2. I don’t think that’s a fedora. Isn’t is a trilby? Which, I guess, could be a subset of a fedora, but it’s not a true fedora.

      1. That is most definitely not a fedora.

        1. Yeah, definitely not a fedora.

          1. Pork pie hats are worn in the movie, not fedoras or trilbies. Trilby hats are a woman’s style, anyway.

            1. I take it back; the hats they wear could be trilby hats. I was mistaken about them being for women.

  7. While we’re on movies, if you haven’t seen True Grit in the thee-ay-ter – I HIGHLY recommend it. It was excellent.

    1. I did. Deserved the Oscars. Not The King’s Speech.

      End of Line

      1. I would have gone with Inception for best pic myself. True Grit was great though. Wish I hadn’t missed Black Swan.

    2. Ah, it was ok. But nothing really special about it (the face shooting scene was pretty classic Cohen Bros violence, though). I’d save your money and get it on cable or DVD.

      1. I thought that young girl who played Mattie was OUTSTANDING. Way better than Kim Darby (the right age, for one thing). I was impressed.

        Plus Bridges did not disappoint.

        Josh Brolin was an unexpected pleasure as well – a truly creepy Chaney.

        1. Same here; I thought the acting was excellent, especially Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie). It’s one of the first times I’ve been impressed by a tweener’s acting. Bridges and Brolin were great, and even Damon fit his role.

          Also, so far I’ve seen Burn After Reading (which I didn’t like) and True Grit with squeamish folks. Their reactions to the face-shooting scenes are worth the price of admission.

    3. I still need to see the original.

      Yeah, yeah, go ahead and heap upon me your scorn and derision, but I never have seen the original True Grit.

      I want to see it before I see the new one, though.

      1. Not really necessary though, since the new one is not a remake as much as a second attempt to capture the book.

  8. Have your head Damon’s latest opinion on Obama? He apparently disapproves his Obama’s stance on…get this…merit pay for teachers. Oh, and Damon has glasses now.

  9. Watched Cronos (Criterion Blu-ray) last night. Great looking movie. Ron Perlman was bloody good in it.

    1. That was one of Del Toro’s first films. God damn I hope he does At the Mountains of Madness, and soon at that. And now that I go look, he has confirmed that he will do it, with Cameron as producer. Fuck yeah.

      1. He’s about the only one I would trust with Lovecraft. Cameron makes me a little nervous, but I think he’s just the deep pockets.

        1. Pre-King Kong Jackson I would have also trusted. But yeah, Del Toro’s visual sense will be a fucking perfect match for Lovecraft.

          1. THINGS IN JARS


            1. Blind, six foot tall giant penguins? Wait, doesn’t that describe BakedPenguin?

              1. Only blind part of the time…

                1. and only half baked all of the time.

  10. Honestly, when I first saw the trailers for this, I thought:

    “I have already seen this movie. It was called ‘Dark City,” and starred Rufus Sewell, Richard O’Brien, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jennifer Connelly (who, sadly, refused to get naked).”

  11. Honestly, when I first saw trailers for this thing, my thinking was: I have already seen this movie. It was called “Dark City,” and starred Rufus Sewell, Richard O’Brien, Kiefer Sutherland, and (sadly, a post-reduction) Jennifer Connelly.

    1. good flick dude

    2. another fucking pig

    3. “Dark City” Great movie – inception before inception, and much, much better than inception.

      1. I loved Dark City. I haven’t seen Inception, but since all my friends that disliked Dark City loved Inception I don’t have much hope that I’ll like it. My GF has it sitting on our coffee table in its Netflix sleeve, but I’m not sure I’ll watch it with her.

  12. Yeah this is a no go for me.

  13. An obvious Matrix rip-off. Skip.

    1. Of the 1999 crop of “What is reality” PKD-like-themed movies, the 13th Floor and eXistenZ were both better than The Matrix.

      1. eXistenZ, good call. I liked Matrix, strictly as an action flick. To give it anymore credit than that would be daft.

        1. I liked all three. I liked the noirish 30’ties vibe from the 13th floor. And I thought the “plug-ins” were open to interpretation in eXistenZ.

  14. Screamers is a very good PKD short story-based movie.

    1. Screamers is surprisingly good. But Peter Weller can usually be counted on to make good choices, Buckaroo Bonzai aside.

      1. If you favor faithful following of the source material Screamers is great.

        1. When I saw the original theatrical run of Blade Runner I was able to tolerate the adaptation until the ending.I actually threw shit and booed it sucked so bad. Much later, I was quite pleased with the “directors cut” version.

      2. Buckaroo Banzai in particular.

        1. That movie is so retarded that I should love it, but I just can’t.

          1. You’re dead to me.

            Nah, I think we’re all a bit wired to like and wax nostalgic for movies and music of our yout. BB came out while I was in college, so it goes in the Good Things pile. I break it out now and then and it’s still enjoyable (and highly quotable).

            I mean, fuck, I even have good feelings for Max Headroom, 4-part UK version of course. Not the lame milquetoast US version. Matt Frewer goofiness FTW.

            1. Max was great.

              Buckaroo Bonzai suffers from the inexperience/lack of skill of the director (who was also the writer). He can’t seem to find a rhythm, and it makes the whole film feel off-balance and uncomfortable. I can’t relax into the flow of it so that I can enjoy it.

              1. Yeah, that definitely comes through, but that didn’t bother me so much. Some movies you enjoy for how the whole thing comes together. Dr. Emilio Lizardo? Epic character.

                1. I have a particular aversion to clunky direction. It really, really ruins the experience for me. You don’t have to be brilliant–just competent–but if you’re actually pretty bad, that’s a tough watch.

                  This happens on TV a lot; they’ll let a new guy do one episode, as directors often change from episode to episode, and you find yourself going “I like this show, but this episode is awful for some reason”.

                  1. You get a good bit of that, the stacato pacing, in Repo Man as well. So, if you let that get in the way of your enjoyment too much, you miss out on cult film history.

                    But, yeah, it does detract from the overall enjoyment, definitely, but ruin it? No way.

                    It also depends on what you watch films for. For me, it’s whether or not the writer and director can sweep me into their world and immerse myself in the film, really getting wrapped up in it and emotionally tied in. Few succeed in actually doing that and even fewer can carry it off so it comes though on a 2nd viewing.

                    That said, I’m not going to abandon a film because it fails in doing so, but it will get knocked down a star or 2.

                    1. There’s a particular flavor of this bad direction that really, really bugs me. Repo Man does not have it. Banzai does. I think it might be a bad combination of both the directing and the editing.

                    2. BB is flawed, but it has some great moments. It could’ve used a sequel. Other than Big Trouble in Little China, that is.

                      Repo Man is just awesome. It should be re-released. In 3-D.

          2. I’ve yet to see it, and I recall being pretty excited about it when I watched Tom Schnyder interview the director when it came out.

            1. Don’t listen to Epi. HE’S the retard.

              1. BB was a great film. But then again I love Thomas Pynchon and it is filled with TP references.

                Screamers is, perhaps, the best PKD adaptation…or could have been if not for the horrible ending.

                I think we’re all a bit wired to like and wax nostalgic for movies and music of our yout

                Indeed. I have fond memories of liquid sky (a horrible movie – we rented it) because of the girl I was watching it with. We ended up fucking about every 20 minutes throughout cuz it was so dull. ahhh. yout.

      3. He had a good run. Have you seen the Funny or Die video he just did on the statue?

  15. Its biggest threat is to prevent Matt Damon from attaining vast political power. In some quarters, that might be looked upon as a good thing.

    All those who gave H&R a hard time about Loder writing reviews should read this understated gem of a line. Several times, if necessary.

    1. Loder is a good fit. The heads of his detractors are swishing with a copious volume of gravy.

      1. MATT DAMON

        1. For some reason I have found Sarah Silverman less attractive after that song she did with you.

          1. I found Sarah Silverman less attractive the first time she opened her mouth and let out that nausea-inducing voice of hers.

            1. Poo, she’s good times, see her live act; it’s murder (but funny murder).

    2. I’m liking Loder. Good change up from the usual stuff.

  16. Sounds like a Dark City ripoff.

  17. I guess these guys are like the so-called Shadow Government in the cartoon series Metalocalypse where they’re always watching over this super-successful Death-Metal band. Pretty funny.

  18. I’m sure Loder completely missed the Adjustment Bureau’s message against the Iraq War (AND the pro-union message at the end) /s

  19. Anyone here read the short story? BN was supposed to have it for me but they dropped the ball.

    1. It’s good. You can order it along with a bunch of other of his stories at for about $10:…..358&sr=1-2

      1. Your public library probably has a copy, too, if it is a large enough system.

  20. is this the same kurt loder that did those really bad fake news/propaganda
    briefs on mtv ?

  21. Whoa! Cool grain elevator thing in the background.

    1. Well. good evening, Colonel.

      I had to go back and look at the pics – my eyes keep stopping on her breasts.

      But looking again, yeah, it kind of looks like a grain silo. Good eyes…

  22. I hereby declare this the overnight thread.

    Holy FUCK what a UFC fight tonight! Bloodbath…not my fave thing. Plus it went to the judges, and they awarded it to the wrong guy. But a good fight with three rounds of action.

    Back to you in the studio, Kurt…

  23. Kennedy killed the hat. Damon resurrected it! Every man under the age of 50 will soon be wearing one.

    Seriously, what did kill the hat? I’m sure it wasn’t Kennedy. Probably just cars and offices and less time outdoors walking in the sun and rain, where a hat is useful.

    1. I killed the hat.

    2. The baseball cap killed the hat.

    3. Some of us over forty still have good hair, for now. So, no to hats.

      In my teens the stuff on my head could barely be called hair. It was like some honky afro. Now, it sits down okay with a hint of natural curl. My side burns are ridiculous to manage though.

    4. I think the society was close to giving up on wearing hats as more and more work moved indoors, and Kennedy acted as the tipping point to catalyze that change.

    5. You knew the fedora was dead when Sinatra stopped wearing one.

      Go back and pin down when that happened and you’ll know when the fedora officially died. I think it was late 1960’s or early 1970’s.

      1. Ahem, Indiana Jones! That dude could rock a fedora.

      2. Sinatra wore pork pie hats, not fedoras.

  24. Kurt Loder is a traitor to his people. WOODSTOCK you chicken!

  25. Can’t stomach movies with a midget lead whose skin isn’t green. Also, contemporary fedoras are grounds for justifiable homicide. That’s two strikes in an era where protecting the plate is a lost art…

  26. Damon was neighbors with Howard Zinn when he was growing up. Whatever you think of Zinn, he wasn’t a guy who blew smoke up your ass, the guy knew what he was talking about and was something something different that what mainstream offered or wanted. Damon knows a little about actual History.

    1. You can say that again.

  27. Damon was neighbors with Howard Zinn when he was growing up. Whatever you think of Zinn, he wasn’t a guy who blew smoke up your ass, the guy knew what he was talking about and was something something different that what mainstream offered or wanted. Damon knows a little about actual History.

  28. Damon was neighbors with Howard Zinn when he was growing up. Whatever you think of Zinn, he wasn’t a guy who blew smoke up your ass, the guy knew what he was talking about and was something something different that what mainstream offered or wanted. Damon knows a little about actual History.

    1. I always wondered what was wrong with Damon. Now I know.

      And now I know why he’s cornered the market on serious political roles depicting men in the 50s and 60s just trying to do right by their country.

      1. Cornered is an understatement. If a studio had done this, there’d be screams of type casting, etc – but Damon seems to gravitate towards the ‘part of the machinery that suddenly became cognizant and now fights the good/right fight’ tarnished but underneath good hearted and wanna be karmically squeaky clean boy.

    2. It’s not osmosis, kid. Damon could have drunk Zinn’s blood from his daily juice box while he was growing up and he would still possess the light weight understanding of the political economy on display in every ignorance filled remark he all too casually has to offer.

    3. Yeah, real genuis on display, there:…..61036.html

      “The small talk — if that’s the right phrase — ranged from which New York Times columnist is the worst (conservative William Kristol, according to Damon: ”He’s an idiot — he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!”) to the proper place of torture in American foreign policy.

      ”Look, the best line about torture I’ve heard came from [retired CIA officer turned war-on-terrorism critic] Milt Beardon,” Damon says. “He said, `If a guy knows where a dirty bomb is hidden that’s going to go off in a Marriott, put me in a room with him and I’ll find out. But don’t codify that. Just let me break the law.’

      A perfect illustration of the ‘it’s okay when the right people do it’ mentality if one needed to be pointed out.

  29. OK, that actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Wow.

    1. Oh Bot, you so crazy!

  30. When I saw the trailers, it made me think they were trying to ride on the coattails of Inception, but without the complete mind screw and uncertainty that Inception achieved.

    1. Yeah it’s Inception mashed with Dark City. And maybe a Phil Collins video from 1981.

  31. I really, really want to pull Emily Blunt’s pants down.

  32. I really wanted to see the movie. Love Matt Damon and Emily Blunt so much.

  33. It’s what used to be called a “pork-pie” hat, in New York in the 60s some folks called them “stingy brim” hats. Fedoras are most typically made of felt and have a wide brim. The hats the fellows wear in The Adjustment Bureau are made of some synthetic material and have the narrow characteristic brim of the pork pie hat.

  34. Whoa…since when did you guys start doing game commentary?

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