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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Promised Land

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Rosemarie DeWitt and Matt Damon star in a scene from the movie "Promised Land."
"Promised Land" (Focus) is a reasonably entertaining message movie about the environmental dangers of drilling for natural gas using a method called hydraulic fracturing—or fracking for short.

To some, fracking represents an easy path to energy independence for the United States—and to vast wealth for those landowners lucky enough to have the proper deposits lurking below their soil. To others, it threatens the ruin of whole swaths of previously healthy countryside through the inevitable contamination of water sources.

On screen, the cards are indisputably stacked in favor of the latter view.

Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) are a duo of energy company executives out to convince down-on-their-luck farmers in a rural Midwestern town to sell their land to the corporation. Their offer includes a percentage of future profits they glibly promise will transform the townsfolk's lives.

When the pair encounters opposition from Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), a retired science professor, and from personable environmentalist Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), who launches a fervent campaign to thwart them, Steve begins to have second thoughts. His change of heart is also driven by his attraction to Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt), a local teacher whose regard Steve comes to value.

A gifted cast and smooth direction by Gus Van Sant help to disguise some obvious flaws. These include the homespun, all-too-pat wisdom spouted by Frank—though consummate pro Holbrook, to give him credit, almost pulls these moments off—as well as a late-reel plot twist that's nothing short of paranoid.

Fundamentally, though, there's no escaping the simplistic perspective and unmistakable anti-business bias underlying Damon and Krasinski's script. Moviegoers committed to scriptural values will, of course, appreciate the prioritizing of stewardship over greed. But the proper balance between the two may appear quite different when viewed from a failing Iowa homestead rather than a Malibu beach house.

The film contains about a dozen uses of profanity and much rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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