Last week saw the premiere of a trailer for perhaps the most culturally relevant film of the year—about an environmental battle for the soul of the small–town American Farm, directed by Gus Van Sant, and titled “Promised Land.” It’s about a kingpin natural gas salesman (Matt Damon) and his assistant (Frances McDormand) who arrive in a farm town to modernize it, only to be met by hesitant residents and an angry farmer determined to fight against his destructive efforts (John Krasinski).
What We Love: The film’s construction crew is tremendous and up to the task — not only is the human–interest-oriented Van Sant at the helm, but the screenplay is by Damon and Krasinski, with a story by Dave Eggers. The cast is great, also featuring Hal Holbrook, whose elderly, gravelly drawl is the best of the voiceovers. The scenery — panoramas of rolling pastures, horses trotting in wooden corrals and a Main Street with awning-ed buildings, miniature models of which would compliment any model train set — is gorgeous. And the plot is thoughtful, topical and passionate.
What We Don’t: Even though there hasn’t been a film that deals so directly with the American conflict between industry and homesteads, the trailer looks fairly cliché. Everyone’s an archetype: Damon is a good–hearted hero with a questionably moral vocation, and Krasinski is a funny, likable antagonist. There’s a love triangle involving these two characters, and Krasinski’s girlfriend (Rosemarie DeWitt) and this feels predictable, as Damon’s character, like many cinematic traveling salesman, starts getting to know the town while he tries to destroy it in the name of progress. The dialogue is simplistic and un–poetic, but perhaps it’s because, since the film deals with such a fiery topic, it is best to play the whole thing cool.