Elizabethtown (2005)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Drew Baylor is fired after causing his shoe company to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. To make matters worse, he's also dumped by his girlfriend. On the verge of ending it all, Drew gets a new lease on life when he returns to his family's small Kentucky hometown after his father dies. Along the way, he meets a flight attendant with whom he falls in love. --TMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 17, 2005
There have been lots of negative things said about Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown". It was first screened during some rather prestigious film festivals, and then general and overall consensus was that the film was far too long. Now, it is receiving more mixed reviews, with most of them claiming the film is not coherent and too jumbled to be what most would consider a 'good film'. I would agree. "Elizabethtown" is certainly not a 'good film'. It is a great film. It is Cameron Crowe's best work since "Say Anything" and it totally redeems his talent after the dreadful "Vanilla Sky". I walked into the theatre expecting to be highly disappointed once more, but this film proved, for me at least, that you can't base your decision to see a film on the advice of film critics. This doesn't bode too well for me and this review, but it is the truth. If I had gone and listened to most of the critics out there, I would have never even given this film a chance. Luckily for me, I did not. I followed my gut instinct and gave it a shot. It was just an easy film to love. "Elizabethtown" is not going to go down as an epic motion picture, and Cameron Crowe will likely best it before his career is done, but it was one of the best films I have seen all year long; certainly the most inspiring.

After losing close to $1 billion dollars for Mercury Shoes on a design that he worked eight years in developing, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is terminated from his position at the company by Phil (Alec Baldwin), his boss. Just as he is about to commit suicide on an exercise bike, he receives a phone call from his sister Heather (Judy Greer) telling him that his father Mitch (Tim Devitt) has died. Seeing as how he is the oldest and most responsible, Drew is sent down to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to retrieve his father's ashes and oversee the memorial service. These are people he has not seen in years. His mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon) has never been welcomed there because of the way she and Mitch met. On his way to Elizabethtown, Drew meets a flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who is the only flight attendant on a plane where he is the only passenger. One night, after a long day of relatives, he gives her a call and they chat for hours and hours, eventually agreeing to meet down the road to watch the sunrise. The film chronicles their unusual romance, in the midst of the funeral arrangements and grief felt by the community. But, moreover, this is not just a love story. This is more of a film about fathers and sons, and how Drew gets to know his father intimately, after he has already passed away.

"Elizabethtown" is, essentially, told in three parts. The first deals with Drew and his 'fiasco' at Mercury Shoes. The second deals with his going to Kentucky to handle the funeral arrangements and so forth, also meeting Claire along the way. The third deals with the road trip he and his father take through the mid-West. Though some might see these three turns in the plot as unnecessary, I think they accomplished just what was needed for the film, as a whole. This film is about Drew working on two relationships -- one with Claire and one with Mitch. The road trip signifies the culmination of both of those, in a very meaningful way. There is one wonderful scene in the car where Drew is, basically, talking to his father's ashes about everything they never talked about while he was alive. In a way, that urn becomes one of the central characters in the film, much like Wilson the Volleyball from "Cast Away". It is as real a character as Orlando Bloom or Kirsten Dunst. There is also another fine scene with Susan Sarandon basically doing stand-up at the memorial service, this soon turning into grief and sadness over the loss of her husband. This being the cut down version of the film, I just known there must have been more with Sarandon and Greer that was not used due to the complaints at the festivals. I wish I could have seen everything Cameron Crowe had to offer -- I don't think it would have hurt the film.

As is typical with most Cameron Crowe films, the music plays a pivotal role in the storytelling process. "Elizabethtown" is no exception. It might play more of a role in this film than in any of his others, especially during the road trip. This is all music for the soul, slow, but uplifting numbers that set the mood each and every time. Like the music, the performances are all in rhythm. Orlando Bloom proves why he is such a sought after actor these days. He is sweet, charming, and absolutely adorable as a man who is still too young to be a grown up, but has already been dealt the kind of cards that only adults ever get to see. Kirsten Dunst delivers the best performance of her career as Claire, who talks in sordid riddles and always seems to be one step ahead of everyone else. And, though their roles are minor, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon make the most of the time they are given. I also have to mention the underrated Loudon Wainwright III in yet another strong supporting performance. He never seems to get the recognition he deserves. Alas, "Elizabethtown" rests on Bloom and Dunst and their chemistry and it is amazing. They were probably the best on screen couple I have seen in years in quite possibly the best romantic comedy I have seen since "IQ", if you would ever call this film a romantic comedy.

In conclusion, you should ignore every other critic except myself. I was expecting the worst and was given one of the best. I laughed, I cried, I felt better after having seen this film. Cameron Crowe's films (except "Vanilla Sky") all have this weird uplifting affect on the viewer. "Say Anything" featured the boom-box scene that is still copied, to this day. "Jerry Maguire" had the 'you had me from hello' scene with Cruise and Zellweger. "Almost Famous" had the bus scene where the entire band begins singing in unison. "Elizabethtown" has the road trip at the end, where a son and his father connect for the first time. I loved this film. I loved Orlando Bloom and I loved Kirsten Dunst. I loved watching Susan Sarandon tap dance across the stage and I loved watching Alec Baldwin give yet another brilliant monologue. I can really not think of a single negative thing about the film, except maybe that I did not get to sit through another hour of it. I left the theatre and immediately went to purchase the soundtrack, and I was not disappointed for a second time. So, if you want just a little inspiration, all roads head to "Elizabethtown".

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