ELIZABETHTOWN

Directed by Cameron Crowe. US. 2005.


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There is a checklist for any Cameron Crowe film which we will apply to this his new feature and first since Vanilla Sky (2001).  A young actor who is a current hot property. Check. A young actress who mixes sex appeal and intelligence. Check. Road movie elements. Check. A tale about moving on epitomised by life-changing events. Check. An endearing 70s sounding rock soundtrack. Check.  A winning combination of comedy and dramatic content that is life affirming and brilliant film making.  I cannot seem to find my pencil.

Crowe’s newest film has the lead character, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) concerned with failure and success; this is quite prescient considering how much of a mishmash this film becomes.  At the start you sense the film will be about the loneliness of a failed shoe designer and how he must move on – not too dissimilar from Billy Wilder territory.  Then we get the narrative curve of Drew’s father dying which in turn makes the film become a ten year too late rites of passage movie.  At one point Drew turns to the cremated ashes of his father in an urn and says, ‘We should have done this years ago.’  It is worth noting that Crowe’s father actually died after the conclusion of Say Anything (1987), nearly twenty years ago, so is this really a way of Crowe confronting his feelings about his father’s death or just invading family memories for film fodder?  

Then we get the inclusion of Claire (Kirsten Dunst) who makes it a romantic comedy tinged with failure when aiming for success.  And, after the funeral ends so does the movie.  Then we contend with Drew for another 15 minutes of going halfway across America in some sort of conclusion and closure to warrant an interest in the romance and a postcard of America.  Although this itself causes problems for the film of which there are many; Crowe could not decide whether to make this a typically melodramatic feature about grieving and death or engage in the aspect of romantic comedy where the film does have a genuine spark.  While the road trip coda at the end is a voiceover of someone who is not even in the car; admittedly different but something that is a bit misguiding for an audience to get to grips with and then dismiss at the end of two hours.

Crowe has said that he likes making movie moments; and looking at his films they are full of them – John Cusack with ghetto blaster above his head; Cuba Gooding Jr. break-dancing in the end zone and Tom Cruise running through an empty Times Square.  And here we do get moments – the Freebird performance at the memorial and the subsequent rainfall, but it is the little moments like Claire opening her eyes when Drew kisses her that carry the most weight.

However, the weight of moments and the weight of them being sentimental makes the script suffer – Drew’s mother, Hollie (Susan Sarandon) hates Bill Banyon (Bruce McGill) helping with the funeral, this is never elaborated on unfortunately lessening the presence of McGill.  There are plot holes – how can Claire construct a map home for Drew in one night; how can Hollie dance so well after a few lessons and how long is it between death and funeral.  On top of that Crowe can simply not write for women, Dunst does well to inject some spunk into Claire although she  has to cope with such dialogue gems as, ‘I will miss your lips and everything connected to them’ and ‘This tree is my favourite tree in the whole world.  I like trees’.

Although it is good to see death being dealt with on screen so much is happening or trying to get on the screen the film falls flat of expectation although not without being entertaining.  

7/10

Jamie Garwood
 
 
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