"Promised Land": What critics are saying

Frances McDormand, left, and Matt Damon in "Promised Land." Focus Features/Scott Green

Promised Land, a new drama opening in limited release in theaters today, reunites the "Good Will Hunting" team of director Gus Van Sant and co-writer/star Matt Damon.

In the film Damon plays Steve Butler, a corporate salesman who is sent with his partner Sue Thomason, played by Frances McDormand, to close a rural town in his company's expansion plans. But what they thought would be an easy job turns into a problem when a schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook), the head of a grassroots campaign (John Krasinski)  put up a fight.

The film has received a 49 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with some critics saying the film didn't deliver in the end. Here's what some critics had to say:

Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post: " 'Promised Land' is helped mightily by McDormand, who, as always, injects a jolt of welcome dry humor into every scene she's in, and Rosemarie DeWitt, as a local girl both men try to date. When these formidable actresses are on screen, 'Promised Land' fizzes and pops; otherwise it's an attractive, well-intentioned dry well."

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle: " 'Promised Land' is a fine place to start appreciating Matt Damon, who always makes it seem as if everybody else is acting and he's just going through the movie being natural."

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times: "When you add in the plot contrivances that cluster around its finale, "Promised Land" concludes as an echo of a convincing film rather than the real deal."

A.O. Scott of The New York Times: "Viewers who are already skeptical of fracking are likely to find gratification in the film's sentimental, studiously ambiguous conclusion. Those seeking scientific information will need to look elsewhere -- not that rigorous science is what anyone expects from a movie. But 'Promised Land' feels divided against itself, not quite sure how to reconcile its polemical intentions with its storytelling impulses, and thus finally unable to fulfill its own promise."

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune: "The script is unconvincing; two key narrative twists, one related to the other, are deeply hokey."

Leonard Maltin on IndieWire: "I give this movie's costars and creators, Matt Damon and John Krasinski, credit for making a 'message movie' as palatable and entertaining as Promised Land. With appealing actors and an attractive location it hums along pretty nicelybut ultimately the film has to show its hand and that's when the story disintegrates."

  • Camille Mann

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