Monday, March 7, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: A Review

For some reason I never realized that The Adjustment Bureau was supposed to be a romantic comedy. I never watch romantic comedies because the whole genre is too saccharine and cliché-ridden for my taste. I thought that The Adjustment Bureau was more along the lines of Inception so I went to see it.

Contrary to what one expects from the genre, the movie is not half bad. None of the actors is particularly annoying or talentless, which is a rare occurrence for a Hollywood movie. There are some really funny jokes at the expense of politicians, and who doesn't like to have a good laugh over the politicians' hypocrisy and ugliness?

One thing, however, left a bad aftertaste. The female lead dumps her fiancé right in the courtroom where they are supposed to get married and runs away with a guy whom she met casually a long time ago but who is the true love of her life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you can't meet a person and realize within minutes that this is the most important person in your life and that you will love them forever. Of course, you can. What bothers me, however, is this idea that a person you shared years of your life with can be discarded in a matter of seconds. Even if the relationship sucked, even if you were sick and tired of the person, it still is never easy to leave behind all of the memories, the shared experiences, the traditions, the private jokes that can't fail to accumulate over the years.

I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't dump partners who bore them or whom they don't really love for the sake of a suddenly awakened passion towards somebody else. I think they most definitely should. A loveless life is a life wasted, in my opinion. However, I can't imagine what kind of an emotionally undeveloped monster could dump the previous partner for a virtual stranger without a single pang. 

What's curious, though, is that there are hundreds of movies that insist on presenting precisely this scenario as the recipe for true passion. If this sells, that should mean people are buying it. Probably, so many people are deeply miserable in their personal lives that the fantasy of running away without a second thought proves cathartic.

P.S. I'm really hoping that nobody will leave comments of the "Relationships are hard work" bent. They are not supposed to be, and I'm definitely not trying to elicit this platitude by criticizing another one.


Rimi said...

The last paragraph left me a little confused. Are you saying relationships are hard work, or that they are not?

Because I'll tell you this: my last partner was mildly bipolar and not on medication (he'd had had adverse reactions to two different kinds of prescibed drugs, and refused to put his mind to any more risks). And apart from the immense cultural differences, apparently I have quite a few 'aspie' traits (excellent normal communication skills -- something I lack inherently but worked super hard to acquire -- is what puts me outside the aspie bracket). And we were both poor, living in one of the US's most expensive cities (Boston).

We were together for nearly 2.5 years, and despite our mental and financial and cultural handicaps, it really wasn't 'hard work'. Our relationship did have some spectacular lows corresponding to our own conditions. Some days, he'd be so down it felt like putting my face under the ocean floor just to reach him. On other days I'd screw up everything from making a sandwich for lunch to falling down the stairs, to not being able to make my very basic phone work, and then get thoroughly frustrated with myself and the world. But for all our patience and affection with each other's problems, neither of us felt we were "working hard" to keep the actual relationship going. This is perhaps unrealistic of me, but I grew up in a very happy home with parents who are effortlessly happy together, and that coupled with my own relationships have left the firm impression that if you need to work hard at *wanting* to stay together, then you've run the course of the relationship.

Is this what you were saying, or the opposite?

Anonymous said...

I saw that movie today as well. I also reacted to Elise leaving her fiancé in the courthouse with the thought, What kind of person would do that?

The movie was better than I expected, though I being a huge Philip K. Dick fan had read the original story and knew some of what was coming, though the plot was changed significantly from the short story.

Ebert's review summed it up well, I thought.

About relationships being "work," if your relationship is work, you are doing it very wrong. I hate that platitude as well.


Anonymous said...

I really don't understand the "relationships are hard work" thing.

To whom is this advice directed, and what does it mean?

Sannchir said...

I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies either and issue you presented is one of the primary reasons of my distaste of the genre & most of the Hollywood production. Remember the dialogue in a car between the protagonists in Breakfast at Tiffany's?

Clarissa said...

" if you need to work hard at *wanting* to stay together, then you've run the course of the relationship."

-My point exactly. My readers are way better than readers on most other blogs I know. :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't believe relationships run a course. To me, that's a cliche--as if relationship were about passion and newness. I don't exactly think we should run around saying "it's hard work!" because that isn't quite right either. But I do think growth is painful. It ought to be a transient pain or maybe it isn't growth. But some pain is to be expected, just as some boredom (also transient) is to be expected. How do you find any of that out if you decide the relationship is running a course and boredom or pain means it's over?