Elizabethtown – Movie Review
Drew Baylor has designed a shoe for a major manufacturer. It has wings that resemble a stingray, it is meant to simulate walking on a cloud, and it is called the Spasmotica. Drew Baylor has a problem. The Spasmotica is a monumental failure. It has been recalled, costing the company close to a billion dollars. Drew Baylor has lost his job, his girlfriend, and just when everything can’t get any lower, his father has just died. Drew Baylor now has to put his suicidal plans on hold while he goes to his father’s home town in Kentucky and organize a funeral. This is Elizabethtown.
On the flight to Kentucky Drew (Orlando Bloom) meets Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a flight attendant who is way too attending. She has a way about her that says she has all the answers, but Drew just isn’t willing to listen. After a miserable day dealing with distant relatives, seeing his dead father, and not being able to get a hold of his girlfriend, he calls Claire and they hit it off on the phone big time. This little friendship over the phone ends up making him happy to have one friend who doesn’t know or care about his big failure, but he is still determined to get home and kill himself. It is quite a dark romantic comedy.
Of course the film does become a little predictable. Will he get the girl? It’s Orlando Bloom, we know he will. But how will he get her, and will she want to be gotten? That’s the interesting twist of this film. Claire is such a free spirit that you never can tell if she will fall for Drew. I love this dynamic.
The actors are on their game in this movie too. Orlando Bloom is great as the miserably lost Drew Baylor, even if you have to ignore his American accent. It isn’t that bad, I think I’m just used to him as a pirate or an elf. Kirsten Dunst is doing her Dunsty thing but it seems more natural in this one, not like how she phones it in on most movies. Susan Sarandon is only in it for a short time but gives one of her most memorable performances as the Widow Baylor. But the person I enjoyed the most in Elizabethtown was the star who was in it the least, Alec Baldwin. To see his role in this movie is to see what I think was the true genesis for Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. He is a corporate titan who has no experience of failure and when the shit hits the fan (and he demonstrates this very well) he becomes calm and cold because his mind just can’t handle it. It is a beautifully naunces performance that last for all of 5 minutes on screen.
This film talks a lot about “last looks”. The look that someone gives you when they know it’s for the last time. It is a sad and true part of human nature that gets played out beautifully throughout the film. The memorial service they hold for Drew’s father is absolutely priceless, it includes some sobing confessions, a stand up routine that is hilarious, a tapdance, and one of the funniest endings to a wake ever.
I had no idea where this movie was going while watching it the first time. I knew it was a romantic comedy, and I knew it was going to be heartwarming. I mean, it IS a Cameron Crowe film. But, even though I should have seen it coming, the ending all hinges on what can only be described as the coolest map in the world. That’s right, I said map. It is a travel map for driving up through America, all timed to a soundtrack that perfectly syncs in with where you are and what you’re doing in your travels. It is perfect and would have taken a lot longer to make than the 3 days they claim to have made it in the movie. Of course it is really about honoring history culturally and musically, but this map is the sort of thing I would love to make for someone, or have made for me.
The reason I should have seen it coming is because Crowe always bases his movies around music when he can. He was a writer for Rolling Stone in the 70s when he was a teenager. Yep, if you didn’t know already, Almost Famous is about 80% autobiographical. So it was good to see how music can change someone’s life in a different way again. But this time he lets the protagonist find his own way to happiness, instead of being dragged around by the larger forces in his life. But if you liked Almost Famous or Jerry Maguire, then you will love Elizabethtown.
Cameron Crowe has made some great movies in his career. Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous. Many thought that he might have lost his way with Vanilla Sky (a movie that just didn’t need to be Americanized). But in November of 2005 he returned to form with this touching film about life, death, and love. It wasn’t a huge success at the box office like his earlier films and has seemed to go under a lot of peoples radar. It’s a good thing in a way because I love turning people onto this film.
If you like heartwarming stories about life, if you like movies about overcoming your fears, if you like maps, then maybe you should visit Elizabethtown too.
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