In light of the current energy debates, Promised Land should be an important film. Addressing each side to the business of fracking, a process which extracts natural gas from the earth, this film gives a confusing look at the pros and cons of drilling. Set in a rural farming community, Steve Butler (Matt Damon) attempts to lease drilling rights from the locals in order for a gas company to begin drilling. Since the town is in abject poverty due to the recent economic decline, raising miniature ponies and struggling to maintain low producing farms, the gas company assumes that this town will be an easy project.
Despite the initial success of Steve and his partner Sue (Frances McDormand), an out-spoken teacher at a town meeting warns the town of the dangers of fracking and starts a resistance to the drilling efforts. This is where I started to hate the movie. The preaching begins here and never stops. An environmentalist even comes to town (John Krasinski) to pass out flyers with dead cows on them and tell sob stories of his ruined farm land. Matt Damon’s character spends the entire movie fighting against people he is trying to help, trying to give them money, trying to help send their kids to college, and they refuse to cooperate. It baffles me why an entire town would be swayed by a teacher and an environmentalist when they have no future without leasing their land to the natural gas company. Even the tag line of the film, “What’s your price?” bugs me. These poor farmers have a ridiculously low standard of living if they seriously believe that maintaining their grandfather’s unfarmable land is more valuable than sending their kids to college. They have millions of dollars of natural gas under their land, unpaid bills and uneducated children. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that problem out.
The process of fracking isn’t perfect and has destroyed farming land and water supplies before, but I would trade some dead cows for less dependence on foreign oil. People should be weary of drilling,and I understand why Promised Land was made. It’s a wake-up call of some sort, but I don’t understand who would pay to go see this movie other than environmentalists and victims of fracking accidents. The film feels like it is four hours long because there is so much preaching. The woman next to me, another reviewer, promptly fell asleep an hour in due to the dragging story line.
Promised Land is a poor film because I left the theater hating everyone from the gas company to the poor farmers. I have no intention of ever watching it again, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see it in theaters unless they want a seven dollar nap. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with the movie besides the story line. The acting and directing are both admirable, as is the cinematography. The annoyance level of the story is just too high to handle.
I give Promised Land 1 “dead cow” out of 5.
by Olivia Sone