I supposed my biggest issue with Promised Land is that it has an agenda. And a damn obvious one at that. At first glance, Gus Van Sant’s new film presents itself as an equally sided fight against capitalism and conservationism. Voices are heard, monologues are delivered, and we’re initially left with an understanding of both sides of a local battle – that of the corporate sharks who try to buy people’s land to capitalize on the natural gas below it, and the farmers who try to maintain what they already have.
And believe me, all the clichéd characters you might expect are here: the genius old timer who knows the damage a gas company can cause (Hal Holbrook), Sue’s would-be love interest who appears to be on her side solely for the prospect of getting laid (Titus Welliver), the gruff simpleton who says no (Scoot McNairy), the loud simpleton who says yes (Lucas Black), and, of course, the love interest who can’t decide which side to take, because she’s fallen for both Steven and Dustin (Rosemarie DeWitt).
Look, I’m not trying to belittle the intentions of those involved here, because quite frankly, those intentions are nothing if not earnest. And it helps that every actor I’ve mentioned fully invests in their role, and helps sell what the screenplay (co-authored by Damon and Krasinski) does not, but that simply isn’t enough to save Promised Land from itself.
In short, from the moment Krasinski’s character strolled into town in his alternatively fueled pick-up truck, I knew exactly where the movie was going. And in skimming other reviews of the film, it appears many others did too. I’m not saying it’s good, and I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying it’s predictable, which is certainly not a word I ever hope to label one of Van Sant’s films.
Although I enjoyed the fact that the film’s R rating permitted the characters to talk how real people actually talk, I can’t argue that what they’re saying makes for compelling (or even good) cinema. Instead, Promised Land offers nothing new and goes exactly where you think it’s going, which is quickly away from your memory. C-