For a fellow who's just been promoted to vice president of land management by his multibillion-dollar natural gas company, the character played by
More an argument than a fully fleshed-out drama, "Promised Land" starts with the notion that Damon's character, Steve, has begun to doubt his corporate mission. Filmed in western Pennsylvania, director
Because the word "fracking" has a way of crushing the average moviegoer's interest in any subject, let alone fracking, "Promised Land" has its work cut out for itself. It strives to humanize the conflict.
Along with a colleague (
Some of the locals, hobbled by the recession, can't wait to cash in. Steve's job is to offer as little money for that land as possible. Then the anti-fracking contingent, led by the local high school science teacher played by
Rosemarie DeWitt plays another teacher who lives alone in bucolic splendor, in her lovely old house with a shady front yard and goats. She finds herself interested in both Steve and his rival, though "Promised Land" is too high-minded to develop any serious sexual tension. (That's fracking for you: That word just doesn't make room for much else.)
This is Damon's third collaborative script for Van Sant, the first two being
But the script is unconvincing; two key narrative twists, one related to the other, are deeply hokey. Van Sant, a smooth craftsman, never gives us a town on the ropes. You keep hearing how tough things are — and in towns like this one, they are — yet "Promised Land," from a story idea by