Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.
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The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
A romantic sci-fi thriller thankfully devoid of excessive CGI special effects, the film asks the central question – Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us?
Matt Damon stars in the thriller “The Adjustment Bureau” as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. Damon portrays ambitious politician David Norris, a man on the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, whose campaign implodes at a vital juncture with the publication of some incriminating college photos. The campaign slips through his hands like sand and as he practices his concession speech in the men’s bathroom, he believes he is alone. However, up-and-coming ballet dancer Elise Sellis (Emily Blunt) hides in one of the stalls after attempting to crash a wedding at the hotel. The two cross paths, and she inspires him to give a completely improvised speech, thus paving the way for a future political career. Elise is a woman like none he’s ever known but just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. Over a four year period, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York.
According to the “chairman,” the man who decides all of humanity’s fate, Elise should have served no other purpose than to re-energise David’s political ambitions. However, their planned solitary meeting is derailed by a random meeting on a bus three years later. This is when the adjustment bureau steps in, attempting to correct the error and put Norris back on the right path again.
Inspired by “The Adjustment Team”, a science fiction short story by American writer Philip K. Dick first published in 1954, Bourne screenwriter George Nolfi turns it into a glitzy futurist conspiracy thriller, Played entirely straight by all the parties concerned, and overlaid with a correctly judged note of jaunty absurdity, “The Adjustment Bureau” remains an essentially light-hearted picture, that slips down pretty nicely as a dark, speculative comedy on the themes of love, free will and fate. The on screen chemistry between the two leads is engagingly warm and heartfelt, and only the most cynical amongst us will fail to care about their romance.
All due credit to Blunt, who was upfront about her lack of formal dance training. “I was honest. I’ve never danced in my life,” she says. “I met George (Nolfi, the director), and I said, ‘I’ll work my ass off for you if you let me do this.” The performer immediately asked to meet with the film’s choreographer, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, from Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, which would become the actual company that Nolfi wrote into the film’s script. “The training was unreal. I hurt every day. It’s one thing to say, ‘I’ll do it for you,’ but it’s another thing to actually do it,” Blunt said of her promise to Nolfi. “It was hell to learn at first, and then it became invigorating, and one of the biggest, life-expanding experiences I’ve ever had.”
Nolfi himself recalled her considerable input. “Emily came out here a couple months before production and she was dancing five or six days a week and working out, taking it seriously on the physical performance level.” The director also stressed that Blunt was not learning simply standard ballet techniques. “It’s ballet-based contemporary dance, so it doesn’t look like your mother’s or father’s ballet. It looks like modern dance, and it is set to modern music; you couldn’t possibly do this dance without a lot of ballet training.”
Her co-star agreed with his director’s assessment. “I’m normally the actor who ends up having to do a boatload of training for things,” said Damon at the film’s press junket. “On this one, I just sat back and watched Emily; she was just so great and utterly believable.”
Emily Blunt, the British -American actress is the recipient of various accolades, including a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, in addition to nominations for two British Academy Film Awards. She is deeply involved in the American Institute for Stuttering (AIS), having overcome her childhood impediment to forge a successful motion picture career. Interviewed in early 2020 by Sammy Blatstein for the international publication Marie Claire, she was moved to say:
“My stutter really started to take hold around six or seven and then kind of got progressively more challenging for me, and as I reached about 11 or 12, it was pretty ingrained. It wasn’t the whole part of me; it was just a part of who I was. There were certain people who liked to define me by that. That was tough. I decided not to really spend time with those people. I’ve probably only now come to realize that everybody has something growing up. That just happened to be my thing.”
“School was interesting because there were certain things I couldn’t do and wanted to, like read out my poem in class. I would never want to do that. I would hate it if the teacher called on me to answer something. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I think when stutterers are put on the spot, that’s hard. I didn’t love calling my friends. I could never say my own name if someone said, “What’s your name?” Because you can’t substitute a word out, which is what we tend to do to find a better flow. You substitute another word that’s easier, and you can’t substitute your name. So I realized quickly as a kid, any pressurized situations were quite hard for me.”
Educated at Hurtwood House in Dorking, Blunt made her acting debut in a 2001 stage production of The Royal Family. She went on to appear in the television film Boudica (2003) and portrayed Queen Catherine Howard in the miniseries Henry VIII (2003). She made her feature film debut in the drama My Summer of Love (2004). Blunt’s breakthrough came in 2006 with her starring roles in the television film Gideon’s Daughter and the highly successful comedy-drama film The Devil Wears Prada. The former won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and the latter earned her a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
Blunt’s profile continued to grow with starring roles in the period film The Young Victoria (2009), the romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011), the science fiction films The Adjustment Bureau (2011), Looper (2012), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and the musical films Into the Woods (2014) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018). She garnered acclaim for her performances as a principled FBI agent in the crime film Sicario (2015), an alcoholic in the thriller The Girl on the Train (2016), for which she received a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and a survivalist mother in the horror film A Quiet Place (2018). For the latter, which was directed by her husband John Krasinski, she won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress.