Movie Clip Discussions

Adjustment Bureau, The

(Universal, 2011)

Main Point: In life, we have the option of being fake or authentic. Even if we choose to be fake, and are actually able to deceive others, God is never fooled.

Movie Clip: The Authentic Speech

This movie actually addresses a deep question humans have asked themselves for thousands of years: “Do we control our own destinies…or does something/someone else control it for us?” In this film, an ambitious politician named David Norris (Matt Damon) meets a ballet dancer named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) and they instantly fall in love. Just one problem: they were never supposed to meet. Thus, “the Chairman,” a powerful person who seems to control the world, sends agents from “the adjustment bureau” to adjust reality so that Norris and Elise never meet so they’ll be separated forever. The movie centers on Norris’ struggle against the incredibly powerful agents as he tries to ensure his future with Elise.

Introducing the Clip:
If you have seen the movie The Adjustment Bureau, you know it’s a film about whether humans get to determine their own fate, or not. In this scene, which basically opens the movie, David Norris (played by Matt Damon) has just lost an election bid for senator of New York because a photo was leaked to the Washington Post of him with his pants down, mooning his friends, during his college years. Now, he must stand in front of all the people who’ve supported his campaign and speak to them one last time. In his speech, you’ll see that he acknowledges his loss, but as he tries to give the crowd hope, something inside him snaps, and he goes way off script. Let’s see what he has to say.

Show the Clip:

NOTE TO OUR USERS: As always, our MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS are truly free. We provide you with small group questions, scripture and even the words to say. As for the clips themselves, we always try to find free clips for you, but don’t always succeed. This particular clip is available for download from Wingclips for a $10 fee. has literally hundreds of free clips on their website, but this isn’t one of them. Your other option with this clip is to rent the film and cue it up to the scene mentioned above.

Transitional Statement:
OK, don’t hold your breath that all politicians are going to start behaving like this. Most of them are still going to tell lies like David started to do here. But here’s what struck me about this clip: nobody in the crowd knew David was lying to them. He could have carried on as he intended to do, hyped up the crowd, and then ran for re-election next time around. But, deep within him, he knew he wasn’t being authentic, and that’s what he truly wanted to be. He wanted to be real. The truth is, you and I have the decision to make. Will we be authentic, or fake? We can put on a mask and try to fool others and ourselves, but no matter how many people buy it, God is never fooled.

Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.

CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.

Discussion Questions:

  1. AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and our favorite politician of all time.

  2. ASK A FEW: In the clip we just watched, we saw that David had gone to great lengths to make people think he was one thing when he was really something else. He had his ties picked for him, he made up sayings about his childhood, and he even paid somebody to scuff up his shoes. Do you think people in real life go to such great lengths to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why or why not?

  3. ASK A FEW: Why do you think David dropped the act and actually told the truth?

  4. ASK A FEW: What do you think the people thought of him after he finished his speech? (Leaders – Let the students answer, but if you want, you can share with them that as the movie continued, we discover that the people of New York LOVED his honesty and actually wanted him to run for election again. We see this even today in the lives of real politicians; when we know they’re telling the truth, it compels us to support them.)

  5. ASK A FEW: People can fool people, but people can never fool God. True or false?

  6. Read the following passage:

      Matthew 23:1-33 (NIV)

      1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

      5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

      8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

      13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

      15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

      16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

      23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

      25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

      27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

      29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

      33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

  7. ASK A FEW: According to Jesus, what were some of the things these Pharisees and teachers of the law were doing?

  8. ASK A FEW: Based on Jesus’ descriptions of these religious leaders, do you think they were being authentic?

  9. ASK A FEW: What were some of the names Jesus called the Pharisees and the teachers of the law?
  10. ASK A FEW: In that day and time, the people thought the Pharisees and teachers of the law were actually the most holy people in the land. How do you think the people reacted when they heard Jesus describe these religious leaders as “vipers” and “tombs”?

  11. ASK A FEW: How do you think the Pharisees and teachers of the law felt when Jesus busted them publically?

  12. ASK A FEW: Seriously, why do we pretend to be something that we’re not?

  13. ASK A FEW: What are the risks we run when we’re not authentic?

  14. ASK A FEW: In what ways could you be more authentic?

  15. AROUND THE CIRCLE: What will you change this week to be more authentic?

Wrap Up:
(In a joking tone) Tonight, as we talked about being authentic and being real, we watched a scene from a movie about an event that is so unreal that we’ll never see it in real life: a politician tell the truth!

But what a cool concept! What an awesome thought! What a hope this stirs within me! That somebody has the courage to finally be authentic – in front of others – when they think he’s told them the truth all along. I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope.

You know what strikes me about the scene we watched? Simple. Everybody thought that what they saw was what they got. But in reality, David had been pretending. Finally, in a life-altering moment, he decided to choose being real over being fake. He could have continued in his falsehood. He had the crowds fooled.

But he didn’t have God fooled. And neither do we.

If we were to tell the truth, most of us, at one point or another, are less than authentic with those around us. We lie. We misrepresent ourselves. Me misrepresent reality. We pretend. We showboat. We try to make others think the best of us, when in reality, we are very different from the person we pretend to be.

If we’re really honest, some of us in here right now are guilty of that.

If you want to know if that’s you, just answer this simple question: Would my friends’ and family’s description of me be the same as God’s description of me?

In other words, is my public life that my friends and family sees the same life that God sees? If not, then you’re not being authentic. You’re being fake. You might have us fooled, but you need to learn the lesson the Pharisees and teachers of the law learned: God is never fooled.

I want to plead with you tonight to get real. That might mean that you get real with your parents and you straighten out a lie that you told them recently. It might mean that you get real with your girlfriend or boyfriend and lose the fake image. It might mean that you need to get real with God – stop pretending that you’re one of His followers and actually become one for real.

Ultimately, it’s your choice. You can continue the lie, or you can get real. I hope you decide to get real.

If you think you might need some help with that, come see me after we pray. I’d love to talk with you about embracing authenticity.

Close in Prayer

Written by David R Smith


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.


  1. Matthew Gifford
    August 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

    The clip cannot be downloaded for free, it’s a select clip and costs. I’m still going to use it, maybe go rent the movie, but just wanted you to know.

  2. Jon d forrest
    August 26, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Man, David it is so hard to ask good questions and this baby is full of them. Being a free will baptist I’m salivating over this one.

  3. Jeremy W
    August 30, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Another great devotion, David. I loved this movie, and I wanted to use this scene for something in one of my lessons, but I never thought to add this scripture to it. Well thought out.

  4. Mitch Irion
    March 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

    This clip isn’t free because the studio requires us ( to have a small fee. It is part of our agreement to do things right and legal. Sorry.

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