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Directed by Cameron Crowe.
Written by Cameron Crowe.
Starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  10/23/05


Let it be known that I saw "Elizabethtown" not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I rolled up to a theater in New York this past weekend with my friends Tina, Julie, Brian and Lucie looking for any movie that started within about 20 minutes' time...and "Elizabethtown" fit the bill.

Perfect timing...shitty movie.

The first truly bad Cameron Crowe movie I have witnessed, "Elizabethtown" stars Orlando Bloom as Drew Baylor, a shoe designer at a very Nike-like corporation that is having a rough time of things--his new shoe has been a commercial disaster, losing his job and losing his firm almost a billion dollars in sales (never mind the validity of such an argument, that one company would base its entire global operations on the sales of one shoe), and on a personal level, Drew's father has recently passed away.  Drew, who has had a very distant relationship with his father, is tasked with arranging a memorial for his dad since he's the oldest child in the family.  While on his flight from his L.A. home to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where the majority of the family lives, Drew meets a flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst) that dotes on Drew and gives him advice about Kentucky, where Drew seems to have not been at any point during his adult life.  Romance ensues, while Drew comes to learn more about family, and love, and a whole bunch of fucking bullshit.

The groans came from my group early and often.  Julie kept hiding her face whenever we were forced to watch more Drew/Claire coupling; Tina seemed to hear the fingernails grating on the chalkboard whenever Claire (written to be outlandishly annoying, Dunst does her best to fit the bill) was onscreen.  About twenty minutes into the film, "Elizabethtown" seems destined for shitdom...the movie gives us a character in Drew that I could tell I was never going to care about, and most of this is due to the performance of Bloom.  "Horribly miscast" is a vast understatement--to take it a step further, Bloom (also horribly miscast in "Kingdom of Heaven") is simply not built to carry a motion picture, period.  He doesn't have the presence, the natural charisma, or the sheer acting ability to carry that off.  Bloom is always going to be better off as eye candy in the second or third tier of performers in a film.  Maybe--MAYBE--as a character actor in a comedy, to play off his looks.  But in terms of assuming a role, Bloom does not seem to do a very good job at that at all, and he takes "Elizabethtown" down hard and fast.

Other performers seem to be non-factors here as well. Bruce McGill, as a family friend that has a past with Drew's mother, isn't nearly as good as he has been in supporting parts in the last few years; Alec Baldwin plays Drew's boss at the shoe company, but he's left with mostly nothing; Jessica Biel shows up in a part so small you almost think she was doing a favor for Crowe by showing up.  Dunst continues to baffle me with her ability; you will notice that her Southern accent fades in and out during the movie, heavy when we first meet her on the plane, then crazy inconsistent for the rest of the movie.  I can't think of a time when I thought that Dunst was something special in her films, yet you always hear people talking about her like she is going to be a five-time Oscar winner later in her career.

Crowe, who has directed "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous", did take a minor dive with "Vanilla Sky" but here, you wonder if maybe he got lucky with his earlier films.  I truly looked at the Claire character in "Elizabethtown" and wondered how much Crowe was influenced by the Kate Winslet character in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the Natalie Portman character in "Garden State."  It's not a straight rip-off, but certainly the kooky/salt-of-the-earth alternative nature of all three women is VERY similar.  And, why does Crowe feel the need to give us an extra 25-minute film on Drew's roadtrip across Middle America?  You couldn't have made a more gratuitous section to a film.  Crowe was doing the run-on movie thing in both "Vanilla Sky" and "Almost Famous", so maybe a new editor might be in order?  Maybe producing partner Tom Cruise could cut Mr. Crowe a little less slack on the budget?

As bad as "Elizabethtown" was--and I cannot understate its general badness--I did laugh a few times, very loudly, and enough to step this shit up from a Hard Vice.  Two scenes come to mind off the top of my head--the silly video that Drew plays to keep the kids quiet at one of the family parties (featuring that construction worker that blows up the house if everyone watching promises to be quiet), and the extended memorial service sequence, complete with a funny story told by Drew's mom (Susan Sarandon) and a Lynyrd Skynyrd band sequence complete with a burning Freebird, the band playing through a fire alarm, and Claire helping people exit a meeting hall by using her stewardess skills.  There were a few chuckles outside of this--thanks, Chuck & Cindy--but in general, the movie is just not very entertaining.  The soundtrack wasn't too bad, though.

As such, some of you hard-core Orlando Bloom fans or those that need to sit in agony watching prolonged dramedies will get something out of this.  Otherwise, save yourself the trouble.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09