Review By: Staff
Elizabethtown: Special Collectors Edition
From the opening moments of the film, we know a handful of things: Cameron Crowe is still a talented writer/director, both visually and verbally, though he's slipping as a storyteller; the music is overwhelmingly satisfying and note perfect for the story; Orlando Bloom is not up to the task of carrying the film or filling his character with any emotional weight; and finally, the film will be long, long, long. We are delivered a mixed bag of goods, a mish mashed collection of scenes and performances, which are forced and presumptuous, and equate to nothing more than an extended music video.
The first hour of Jerry Maguire is jammed into the opening fifteen minutes of Elizabethtown, as we watch a hotshot, handsome man lose everything he had worked hard for; in this case, it's Bloom's Drew Baylor losing his coveted position in a shoe empire (think Adidas!), after costing it's owner (Alec Baldwin) the mere price of $900 million in a very rare, and unrealistic, shoe fiasco. Drew doesn't have long to contemplate suicide, however, because he receives a phone call telling him his father has died. Drew is asked by his mother and his sister (Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer, respectively) to travel across the country, from Oregon to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to pay respects and have their beloved father/husband cremated. This film is Drew's journey, in many ways a journey from childhood to adulthood, and also, a journey cross country with music and blossoming love as guides. Disappointment abounds for audiences because his journey is emotionally shallow and filmically uninspiring.
During his late night flight, which carries barely any passengers, Drew is interrupted and bothered by Claire (Kirsten Dunst), his flight attendant. He's dull and contemplative; she's quirky and talkative. She's also annoying and bothersome and vacant and extremely odd. Throughout the next hour, Drew spends some time with his father's Southern family, he talks with Claire over the phone for what seems like an entire night and day, and altogether nothing much happens. Every relationship is patched together, but no quilt is completed. This is, above all else, a film about relationships and how they change our journey through life, but they are delivered in the most contrived means I have seen since, well, Crowe's own Vanilla Sky. Every character is presented as quirky and different, with no substance or depth. I was so disappointed by this lack of character depth, that I felt I had been let down by a very good friend in Crowe.
The last half hour contains a family tribute to the lost patriarch, which is far too meaningless, considering we never
Crowe has many important ideas to mention and discuss in his writing. It's always a pleasure to listen to his words spoken by good actors and to understand his unique take on names, numbers, phone calls, and most importantly for this film, "last looks"Â. He builds to a few good moments, including one terrific "last look,"Â but he fails to deliver an entire film, a completed journey. He focuses heavily on Drew Baylor, but his most interesting characters (Sarandon/Greer, and the townsfolk of Elizabethtown) take a very unfortunate backseat. Drew's relationship with Claire is vapid and odd; I never for one moment believed they were falling in love or developed anything more than the most shallow and obvious relationship. Crowe's only success in this film is his choice of music. The music in Elizabethtown is more expressive than all the film's other elements combined. Tom Petty's Learning to Fly was an extremely inspired choice and spoke more truth for the characters than the actors did. Buy the CD and take your own journey cross country.
Orlando Bloom's ken is far too weak for this film. It's very unfortunate, considering he was the actor chosen to bring Drew Baylor to life, and he delivers an empty heart and a blank stare. During the opening voice over, it's clear he has no clue what to do, and he seems uncomfortable in his first film portraying a modern American male. Kirsten is plain weird as Claire, and I'm not satisfied in believing that's a good character choice. One thing's for sure, their relationship is poorly developed, lacks truth, and is never fully realized.
Crowe has given us his worst two films in his latest two films, Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown. They are discombobulated, confusing, and forced. But it's hard for him to deny his own creative genius, even when he swings and misses. He delivers moments in Elizabethtown, but never a film. Here's hoping he hits another homerun soon, i.e. Jerry Maguire, or better still, a grand slam, i.e. Almost Famous.
For a Special Collector's Edition, it's lacking a making-of documentary and interviews with the writer/director
Movie Grade: C-
DVD Features Grade: C+
Overall Grade: C