Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual references
October 14, 2005
Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin
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By Jennifer E. Jones
Nobody does it like Cameron Crowe. He takes a slice of life and turns it into a masterpiece. He did it with Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. He’s done it again with Elizabethtown.
Based on real events that happened to Crowe, Elizabethtown exists as a small town in Kentucky where you can find yourself. At least, that was the case for a 20-something named Drew (played by Orlando Bloom).
Elizabethtown’s opening scene jumps right into Drew’s nightmare. The same day his successful dream job turns into a debacle of “fiasco” proportions, he also learns his father died. Depressed and dejected, Drew hops a red-eye to his childhood hometown on behalf of his near-hysterical mother and sister (played respectively by Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer). On that flight, he is unable to shake a persistently optimistic flight attendant named Claire (played by Kirsten Dunst). Little does he know that just as his world is falling apart, Claire will show him everything he never knew he already had.
Crowe does an amazing job capturing the small town feeling in every Elizabethtown scene from the deafening sound of cicadas to the circus-like family gatherings. If you don’t have Southern family, you’ll view a fairly accurate portrayal in Elizabethtown, which is one of Crowe’s strong suits in this film. He depicts middle America in a way that debunks the typical, condescending “Blue Collar TV” image. Elizabethtown is full of colorful, lively people with warm hearts and welcoming arms.
Most viewers are not used to an Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven, Lord of the Rings) who is not wielding a 12th century weapon. In Elizabethtown, he is armed with only his father’s urn. Nevertheless, he plays brooding and disillusioned quite well.
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) is born to play perky. While her southern accent slips from time to time, she cannot help but be loveable. Her smile lights up the screen, and her chemistry with Bloom can almost make you believe in love again.
What I love about Susan Sarandon (Alfie, Shall We Dance?) is that no matter what role she plays, she has a quiet dignity about her. Although in Elizabethtown she plays a woman who loses her marbles at the death of her husband, Sarandon does it with grace and class.
God bless Judy Greer (The Wedding Planner, 13 Going on 30), who seems to be doomed to be a co-star. She plays Drew’s sister who is hanging by a thread, but by the end you’ll find her underlying neurosis rather sweet.
My only qualm with this film is its uncanny resemblance to Jerry Maguire. The “kick-you-when-you’re-down” girlfriend role played by Jessica Biel is near identical to Kelly Preston’s in the 1996 film, not to mention the central theme of finding what you need after losing it all. At moments I felt like Drew was just a different haircut and an egotistical football player away from being Jerry.
However, Elizabethtown has a lot flowing in its undercurrents if you look for it. There is a struggle between what defines success and failure. There is a young man’s search for meaning amongst the family he has tried to avoid and the commercial pleasures of life that are fleeting. And, being a Crowe film, there is really, really cool music that ties it all together.
You’ll be surprised to see that, for a Hollywood feature, Crowe kept Elizabethtown relatively clean. It earned a PG-13 rating for language and sexual references, none of which I was horribly offended by. While it’s not something you’d take your ten-year-old to see, you can safely take your mother. Teens looking for a belly-aching comedy may not get the heavier themes but they’ll enjoy looking at extreme close-ups of Orlando Bloom.
True Cameron Crowe followers should flock to the theaters to enjoy seeing another side of his life on the big screen. And even if you’re not a fan, anyone can appreciate this film for its witty romance and intelligent drama.
Like a warm piece of apple pie, let Elizabethtown bring you back to that comfortable place best described as “home.”
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