Welcome Home to Elizabethtown
By Jennifer E. Jones
Kentucky: “It’s a heck of a place to find yourself.” That’s where director Cameron Crowe came looking when he made his latest film Elizabethtown.
“It’s a love letter to my Dad and Kentucky. I don’t think we’d have made the movie if they said, ‘You cannot go to Kentucky,’” Crowe tells CBN.com.
In Elizabethtown, Crowe opens another chapter of his life for the world to see. Just as he loosely chronicled his days as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine in Almost Famous, he goes back to the time when his father died and back to the road of self-discovery that took him home.
Elizabethtown follows Drew, played by Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven, Pirates of the Caribbean), a success-driven 20-something whose career unravels in what he can only describe as a major "fiasco." The same day, he learns his father dies, which takes him back home to the community of Elizabethtown.
“This movie for Drew is about learning to appreciate those people in his life. That ultimately comes from him appreciating himself,” Bloom says.
Along the way, Drew meets a hopelessly optimistic flight attendant named Claire (played by Kirsten Dunst of Spider-Man). "She takes him through this process of learning to appreciate himself in order to appreciate this wonderful family who welcomes him in Kentucky," Bloom describes. "[He comes] to terms with the loss of his father, then ultimately falls in love with a girl who’s offering him this life."
Dunst concurs, “The relationship that Drew has with Claire allows him to be open to his family. The only person that’s really relating to him and listening to him is a complete stranger.”
This role of a complete stranger let Dunst draw on the perky and confident persona that she has played in other roles such as Bring It On. “I thought she was really bold,” Dunst says. “I appreciate that about her. She felt like a real woman… I could relate to a lot of the people-pleasing aspects of Claire in how I grew up being a young actress and performing for people.”
Bloom also found correlation between his character and himself. “My hometown is like [Elizabethtown]. Canterbury (England) is a medium-size city. Community, family, and friendship is everything that I grew up with. It was a good reminder to me of what is important.”
Bloom hopes that the film’s central message of family reaches audiences like it reached him. “People [should] want to take their Dad on a road trip or go home for Christmas. It brings back what’s really important. If it isn’t family and friends, then I don’t know what it is.”
Among the family theme of Elizabethtown, Crowe also explores the question: “What is success?” Drew appears to have it all and loses it in a day, causing him to wrestle with the difference between success and greatness.
“You’ve got a guy who’s obsessed with success,” says Bloom. “He’s been caught up in the momentary happiness you get from being able to buy a new house or car. The truth is you can’t take any of those things with you when you go.”
Viewers may be pleasantly surprised to see that, for a big Hollywood movie, Crowe kept the film relatively clean -- particularly when it came to Drew and Claire’s romance. “I have a personal theory,” Crowe says. “A great kiss is as memorable and timeless as a lot of the stuff that follows it. It is such an intimate moment, and I like honoring the heart of the dance that lovers do.”
As Crowe's films are infamously known for, music plays a central role in Elizabethtown. Claire builds a road trip mix CD package for Drew that points him in the right direction, literally and personally.
“The music is important, because as a great mix CD does, it sends you little messages. It whispers in your ear a little bit, kids you a little bit, and hopefully says I love you,” Crowe says. “What’s great about a mix CD is that it always has a deniability attached. ‘That was just a song. It wasn’t me (laughs)!’ With all that humor and grace, I wanted Kirsten to be giving him the gift of life.”
When asked what her real-life road trip songs would be, Dunst says, “I’d have Joni Mitchell’s Blue. I’d have Paul Simon’s Graceland. That just feels like a road trip CD to me… I have to have some fun dance music. Then I want a little mix of rockin’ out music.”
Crowe’s final hope with the music, the road trip, and the film was that Elizabethtown would encourage people to not only connect with family but also with the world around them. “It’s a wonderful thing if you can make a movie that gives people a five-minute period after it’s over to think, ‘I don’t know more than ten miles outside of the places I drive to everyday. Maybe this weekend I’ll go visit my Dad.’ Take a trip, take some music, think about things, look around and feel the world a little bit.”
Elizabethtown also stars Susan Saradon, Judy Greer, Alec Baldwin, Bruce McGill, and Jessica Biel. It opens nationwide October 14, 2005.
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