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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.09%
Worth A Look: 24.55%
Average: 6.36%
Pretty Bad: 10%
Total Crap40%

9 reviews, 56 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"A Great Place To Visit - As Long As Kirsten Dunst Is Around"
4 stars

Editing can save a movie. It’s one of those little sayings that people who know the art of filmmaking hold to be a universal truth. Filmgoers will often speculate after seeing a taxingly long experience, that there’s a great movie somewhere in there if they just would cut out 15 or 20 minutes. It was a line I heard up and down this year’s Toronto film festival after Cameron Crowe’s latest had screened. Clocking in at some 138 minutes (about your typical Crowe length), much of it felt self-indulgent and forced. Alas, there were still two stories within it fighting for dominance. One full of the usual Crowe magic for romantic fantasy and the other bogged down in slapstick and middle class hick humor. Even before the press screening in Toronto we were informed that Crowe was still going to do some tweaking. Less than three weeks later, nearly 20 minutes were gone and my opinion surprisingly hadn’t changed all that much. It still has its share of problems, but definitely worth seeing. It’s just shorter.

As bad weeks go, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is having the kind that even John F. Kennedy wouldn’t have wished on his many enemies. The fruits of Drew’s eight-year labor to design a shoe that would encapsulate “walking on clouds” has just failed and cost his company $970 million. The company’s CEO (Alec Baldwin) points out that you could round that off to a billion and no one would nitpick the inflation. On the verge of professional and actual suicide, Drew gets a call from home that his father has just died while visiting his home city of Elizabethtown. His sister (Judy Greer) has a baby to take care of and mom (Susan Sarandon) has gone into personal hysterics over the loss. It’s up to Drew to make the flight to Kentucky to prepare for the funeral.

On the red eye he meets perky flight attendant, Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). With a clear crush on the guy, she talks his ear off on the nearly empty plane and with a penchant for directions, draws him a map to his dad’s hometown. Clearly their paths will cross again. After momentarily getting lost, Drew finds the inhabitants of Elizabethtown in a state of mourning that he is not ready to communicate himself; all of them with the kind of memories of his dad that he has lost during his time away from home.

Perhaps its not true that you can always go home again – because there is something off about the time spent with this branch of the family tree. For starters, not one of them makes an impression as a character beyond the Starter’s Guide to writing nutty Southerners. They aren’t over the top in a caricature way but take Drew’s cousin, Jessie (Paul Schneider), an irresponsible single father with a monster for a kid who still lives for the day his band nearly opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd. He adds precisely zero to Drew’s journey, but probably should as father/son relationships go. Jessie’s own dad (Loudon Wainwright III) tries to educate him in parenting with a pay attention line for the audience “You cannot be friends with your own kid.” That’s an ongoing debate in modern parental responsibility but its never explored or paid off. Drew does find a hysterical solution to the kid’s screaming problem, but there’s no sense that Jessie will ever be a good father and at no point does his tale ever balance the positive memories that Drew has of his dad. When it all leads to a “who booked them?” finale to the memoriam that’s a disaster both to the family and cinematically, Jessie should have been left entirely on the cutting room.

Thankfully, all the madness in Kentucky and what is transpiring with Sarandon is incessantly rescued by Drew’s interaction with Claire. Dunst’s overly cutesy portrayal may be a bit too sugar sweet at times - but fall in love with her or not, Crowe has the habit of making you wish you would. Starting with all-night phone call that leads to a beautiful sunset rendezvous, Crowe has the ability to turn hokey romanticism into the kind of stories you wish you could share with your kids someday. The only beat Crowe misses in their time together is Claire’s excuse to keep Drew at a distance; namely an invisible boyfriend named Ben whom we keep hearing about as a constant distraction to delay the courtship it’s obvious they both want.

If you’re wondering if you didn’t just see the death-in-a-family/coming-home-again/girl-who-changes-your-life scenario you might be thinking of last year’s Garden State – Zach Braff’s tremendous filmmaking debut (which I named the best film of 2004.) The similarities are palpable (right down to Crowe’s legendary soundtrack mastering; he seemed to use his entire collection this time around), but Braff’s film wasn’t exactly the bastion of originality either. What struck me like a ton of bricks seeing Crowe’s truncated version was that it took me some time to pinpoint precisely what he excised. Maybe that speaks to his insight in knowing to cut out the least memorable stuff in the festival cut, but I remember seeing Garden State in the theater for the first time since Sundance and instantly missed certain scenes that struck me the first go-round. I knew where they had been cut, how long they were and the tears I originally shed.

Crowe did make some fine cuts, but kept the single most exhaustive scene in the film; a seemingly endless monologue by Sarandon that includes the history of her marriage, the revelation of why she’s disliked in Elizabethtown, how she reacted postmortem, a stand-up comedy routine and summed up with a tapdance to "Moon River" which would have been beautiful if it didn’t take so long to get to. If letting go is one of the film’s themes, Crowe should have paid closer attention to it, since the dad’s tribute only continues with everyone in pause mode before reacting to how it concludes. And just remember, this originally went on longer. If you want to see how to construct a truly wonderful and quirky memoriam, be on the look out for a little film by Christopher Jaymes called In Memory of My Father (also featuring Judy Greer). If you would have told me after Almost Famous that in the next five years, three films with similar subject matters would premiere and the one by Cameron Crowe (one of my favorite filmmakers working today) would be bringing up the rear behind two feature debuts, I would have called you a liar.

Focusing on the positives is something I’ve clearly failed to do in this review – so none of us are perfect. That’s sometimes the unfair price a director can pay for crafting a resume full of such cinematic life and heart. Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous – these are top ten films in just about any year. They had romance but featured the heart of a romantic in not only the relationships but the world in which they competed whether it be sports, rock ‘n’ roll or a father letting go of his child. The city of Elizabethtown just can’t compete and as a result the emotional undercurrent that Crowe specializes in by not forcing but earning is just not there. You’re less likely to care whether or not Bloom has reached an emotional peak in his journey and more probable to yell at him to just stop jumping around. Elizabethtown IS a journey though and maybe its up to the individual to decipher what it actually is. Is it the crippling fear of failure in a time where personal connection depends on success? Is it stopping to appreciate your own life in an America where so much has been gained through loss? Or is it wishing you had a woman beside you who could guide you through every highway, byway and fork in the road so you never have to stop and ask for directions ever again? Whatever it is, I don’t doubt I will be visiting Elizabethtown again in the future.

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originally posted: 10/14/05 14:32:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/06/16 Lucia There is literally NOTHING likable about any of the characters in this film. 1 stars
3/18/14 Fykvvqfc Since Aflac japanese remains the No.Men left sterile by cancer treatment as well as with th 4 stars
2/22/14 Bgpstiag 99 unlimited streaming and binary options australia turn it into something bigger., <a href 5 stars
2/20/14 Lola This is the funniest, most spot-on review of this film -- I laughed so hard I peed myself 5 stars
2/13/14 gGrWfmlqrQcdI sverige.txt;1 4 stars
7/02/10 Ninjaboy This dude has written the BEST movie review I have EVER read. It is accurate and 100% corre 1 stars
3/15/10 Shoy I think this reviewer's got issues beyond his hatred of Elizabethtown. I enjoyed the film. 4 stars
2/22/10 Cat Garbage on every leve. As a chick it is ofensive. Orlando Bloom is wooden in this film. 1 stars
1/26/10 Ato I'm happy people have finally realised that Orlando Bloom IS NOT A LEADING MAN!! 1 stars
12/21/09 tom absolutely terrible. No redeemable merit AT ALL! 1 stars
7/19/09 Meg WORST. EVER. 1 stars
11/04/08 Will sucked balls. 1 stars
10/26/08 John McCarthy I had to give up half way through and read angry reviews to feel normal again 1 stars
8/22/08 Stephanie Oh my god, this movie was AWFUL. Pointless, boring, and 2.5 hours of my life GONE FOREVER! 1 stars
8/13/08 Brenda I didn't like it. The main character is unlikable. It has huge sections of nothing. Dull! 1 stars
4/26/08 Pinoy Kabayan Very good. Ilike it 5 stars
4/26/08 Roz Couldn't stand it. Boring on so many levels. 1 stars
4/10/07 Jessie Lee Good film... Not perfect, but not the horrid trash some may lead you to believe. 3 stars
3/11/07 Dominic Rubbish - and this is from someone who is an unabashed Almost Famous fan 1 stars
10/23/06 meredith the feel of the movie was fantastic but the plot was a little piontless but i loved the dia 4 stars
8/26/06 Joe Chris Parry's review is more amusing than the film. Watch "Jerry Maguire" again instead. 2 stars
8/15/06 Ashley Hinz Strange little movie, but fine. 4 stars
5/20/06 Christine Wilbik Boring, lost interest in the movie immediately 2 stars
3/26/06 Thomas Semesky A film that I liked, but I can understand why others wouldn't 3 stars
3/15/06 Michelle D Just read Chris Parry's review. 1 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar Really not good. It's difficult either to believe the plot or to sympathise with the leads. 2 stars
2/28/06 Kevin Smith Orlando Bloom is not a good actor 1 stars
2/26/06 Murray Snowdon total and utter waste of time - pathetic 1 stars
2/24/06 ES Didn't hate it, didn't love it. Re-watchability 0% 3 stars
12/22/05 Kirsten Dunst fan in mourning starting with virgin suicides Painful seeing Kirsten Dunst morph into totally thinking her shit don't stink! 1 stars
12/17/05 Once great Kirsten Dunst continues downward spiral. Anyone else find Claire to be obnoxious?? 2 stars
11/09/05 kammie love love loved it!!! 5 stars
11/09/05 tanja some good ideas and curious dialogues mixed with poor acting 3 stars
11/06/05 rod james Total boring rubbish 1 stars
11/06/05 Laura petersen one of my favorites, more of a chick flick and im not even a orlando fan 5 stars
10/24/05 GiR It was adorable..but not worth paying to see it..good thing I work at a movie theatre. 4 stars
10/24/05 Don A good "substitute" for the movie you came to see . . . 4 stars
10/23/05 John I turned to my wife halfway through, and said that I want to get on his bicycle now 1 stars
10/23/05 jay straight forward poop 1 stars
10/23/05 baseball-nut I didn't care for it, but my wife liked it considering she's an Orlando Bloom fan! 3 stars
10/22/05 Boombala Hey If Kirsten Dunst's head exploded, would it affect her acting? 1 stars
10/21/05 john mills The Congo of romance. Simply awful!!! 1 stars
10/21/05 Bri really, really good! definately worth watching 5 stars
10/20/05 odditie Please make better decisions Orlando! 1 stars
10/19/05 Steve Michaud Even "lesser" Cameron Crowe is scads better than most of the stuff churned out these days. 4 stars
10/19/05 Ron Sandvick Excellent and fun 5 stars
10/17/05 Ryan Possibly a movie that non-20somethings just won't get. Understandably. 4 stars
10/17/05 ajay man, there's a lot of people down on Cameron Crowe. It's not a bad flick. 3 stars
10/17/05 jeff just stupid!!! 1 stars
10/16/05 Cara Undoubtedly, this is the worst movie I have ever seen in my entire 54 years of existence. 1 stars
10/16/05 Tommy Adams Left me speechless, as few moviews have. Loved it! 5 stars
10/15/05 Jim The Movie Freak This should've been better 3 stars
10/14/05 Criddler Diddler More embarassingly inept garbage from pretentious hack Cameron Crowe? Hurray! 1 stars
10/12/05 Alonso Duralde Horrible! Cutesy/phony/precious/fartsy—maybe even worse than "Vanilla Sky." Avoid! 1 stars
10/11/05 Dan Moore very insightful film on human nature 5 stars
9/28/05 E. Northam Lightweight, predictable romantic comedy 2 stars
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  14-Oct-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Feb-2006



Directed by
  Cameron Crowe

Written by
  Cameron Crowe

  Orlando Bloom
  Kirsten Dunst
  Susan Sarandon
  Judy Greer
  Jessica Biel
  Alec Baldwin

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