The adjustment bureau

Few actresses know the torments of fate quite as much as Emily Blunt.

Likely there is no actress more affected by the proverbial “shortage of great roles for young women” than this English not-quite-a-star. Each time someone writes a news story on this perpetual topic, it should include her photo. Five years since people took notice in The Devil Wears Prada, one of the best young actresses around is still looking to stamp herself on a signature role.

She adds grace and spice to The Adjustment Bureau, an otherwise silly sci-fi romance of fate, flukes, and magic fedoras. It only takes a single meet-and-makeout in a ritzy hotel restroom for her free-spirit dancer to entrance Matt Damon’s bad boy politician. While you watch her carry her few scenes, you wonder about her destiny. Is it her fate to spend an entire career in films that are not as good as she is?

If it’s a matter of fate, then it fits with The Adjustment Bureau, loosely based on a Philip K. Dick science-fiction story that contemplates free will. The movie imagines the hierarchy of angels as a bureaucracy of men with hats headquartered in a New York skyscraper. They travel the earth observing important people, keeping them in line with God’s plan. When life distracts their subjects from the right path, the adjusters return it.

Damon’s politician is just such a man. Blunt’s dancer is just such a distraction. The adjusters are determined to keep them apart and Damon on the path to his rendezvous with destiny.

Yes, Damon and Blunt project chemistry. But the performers have more of it than their characters, who are ciphers headed for predictable ends. The look of the film, directed by George Nolfi, conjures the technical filmmaking term “looks like crap.” Besides, romances are hard enough. There are enough normal obstacles. Why do we need men with hats?

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