Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, October 14, 2005  

Elizabethtown - A Sweet Road to Nowhere

Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown is a sweet, pleasant failure of a movie. It is also the dreaded chick flick (a term which has now entered the dictionary) which no red blooded, young man would dare to admire or see.

Guys, if you thought Jerry Maguire was a fluffy bed with ruffled pillows, scented candles, and a sweet, white wine kind of movie, this new one of Crowe’s is not for you.

Gals, if Orlando Bloom is your kind of leading man to get warm about, I feel sorry for you.

Orlando Bloom plays Drew. A creative shoe designer for a Nike-like company. His company has bet $937 million dollars on his design and guess what? It is a colossal blunder, flop, fiasco. And Dean wants to kill himself.

(Never mind the fact that it seems that this monolithic Nike-like company doesn’t seem to do market research, focus groups, or any of the myriad tests on public taste and style before launching a product that will cost a billion dollars. You just have to believe in the premise.)

As Drew prepares his suicide which is played for laughs since he is a bit inept and unconvincing, he receives a phone call from his sister. His father has died in Kentucky. He must fly there to make all the arrangements and meet a branch of the family he has no prior experience with. He promises us that when he is done he will go home and complete the interrupted self-slaughter.

Ah, but Kirsten Dunst as Claire Colburn is the stewardess (I mean flight attendant, sorry, old habits die hard) on a nearly empty flight and she meets him cute. That is she turns on the cute for his sake. (Do you think that airlines fly planes that only have two passengers on board cross country or might they not cancel the flight? That’s all I saw -- two passengers counting Orlando Bloom.)

She charms him with her Kentuckian ways. “It’s Lou-a-vul,” she tells him for Louisville.

If I have to recount the plot, we’ll be at this for days. There are a great many characters and a great number of sub-plots or possible sub-plots since no one plot seems to carry very far. There are numerous back stories which never get elucidated.

This movie has interesting characters, but they all remain mere sketches. Very well crafted sketches, but nothing much really happens with so many people involved. Questions are raised then dropped. It has no focus and labors mightily to bring forth a mouse.

The relationship between Drew and his West Point military father is apparently strained, but we never learn why or how.

There are some very funny scenes which are charming indeed. Drew meets a bridegroom Chuck at his hotel as he is trying to steal a few beers from Chuck’s pre-wedding party. Chuck comes to tears as he learns that Dean’s father just died.

“Life. Death. So close together. Separated by a hair between this room and that one,” he philosophizes with much emotion. It is very amusing.

Another scene is with the folks all gathered at his aunt’s house and the kids are wild. Claire has given Drew a video tape. Drew puts it on for the children who see a rugged man in a hard hat grab their attention with his promise to blow up a house if the children promise to mind their moms and dads. The children solemnly promise the television they will do so and are rewarded with a house being blown up. Marvelous scene.

Claire pursues Drew and two thirds of the way through the film, she sleeps with him. Which effectively ends the boy meets girl, boy gets girl love story. A common problem with most romantic comedies now. Once the couple have sex, the entire impetus of the story is concluded. Modern movies then tack on a coda where the people then have to decide if they love each other and want to be together. And we get that in Elizabethtown.

Here, though, we have a rather silly memorial for Drew’s father where his mother (Susan Sarandon) does a stand up comic routine (she’s taking classes), and a belabored tap dance (she took a class of that, too, in her mania to avoid grief).

Then, following the precise directions that Claire cooked up for him overnight with soundtrack provided by CDs she burned for him, he goes on a road trip with the urn carrying the remains of his father as he reconciles with his departed dad as we watch through the windshield. And still there is more.

This movie is ambitious and a complete failure. The pacing was off from the start with scenes which gave us little information compared to the time expended. It’s as if Crowe expected all his points to be made without dialogue and lots of music to cue our response to the situations which were simply not compelling.

Nor could the movie decide what it was about. It’s meant to be a sweet, romantic dramedy but ends up everywhere and nowhere. It has a great many characters who only exist to be quaint characters in a movie.

Orlando Bloom is unimpressive, the metro-sexual, boy male that Hollywood favors these days, but actual men do not. Kirsten Dunst starts off cute and then creates a character no one could believe is a real woman in a very short while. She is simply not that fascinating or attractive. She is a girl and not a woman.

Watch the DVD when it comes out and be glad you didn’t pay much money to see it.


Michael Medved gave it three stars for his friend, Cameron Crowe. (Seriously, they are friends. Crowe was on the radio show and said they go back twenty years.) Medved admired the warmth of the story, the love letter to red state America, its celebration of family and the Kentucky milieu without stereotypes. He mentioned that the audience applauded at the end of it.

People applauded at the screening I went to also. It wouldn't bother me at all if this movie does well. Simply because I thought it failed overall, I enjoyed the attempt and ambition to try and make a broad, warm hearted, Capra-esque film. It aimed high and I thought it missed the mark. It is warm and fuzzy, but the main characters are simply not substantial enough.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:56 PM |