Matt Damon and John Krasinski co-wrote and co-star in Gus Van Sant’s "Promised Land," a film about fracking vs. farming.
The blundering script is chock-full of corn-pone characters, from Global Energy’s unbelievably scrupulous, therefore inept Damon and his weary sidekick Frances McDormand buying local clothes to fit in, yet leaving their Minnie Pearl-escent price tags fluttering, to more hokum like comparing "the people" and "the land."
There’s no subtlety in these rustic stereotypes, and the piece feels like a student project full of improbabilities, like environmentalist Krasinski setting alight a model cow pasture in Rosemarie Dewitt’s elementary school classroom. Who invites pyromaniac strangers in for student demos?
While always a treat to see Hal Holbrook, it’s odd to cast him, at age 88, as the local science teacher. Shouldn’t he be retired, or at least not be forced to say such ham-handed lines as fracking "is not the saving grace you all want it to be?" Damon also builds a town carnival almost single-handedly, post-hole by post-hole, overnight.
Although set and filmed in rural Pennsylvania, the accents are all over the map, and the locals sing Springsteen instead of country and/or western at the weekly open mike night. Small towns anywhere skew more Toby Keith than the Boss, making what could have been a primer on the obvious cons of subterranean drilling into a subpar and unconvincing mess.
This unsophisticated attempt offers only two extras -- an extended scene, and a brief "Making of" piece -- with little else to enlighten or to springboard topical environmental discussions. Rather than promise, the film lies fallow, making it hard to give a frack.
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