Saturday, October 15, 2005

ELIZABETHTOWN

If you haven’t already, you're going to be hearing a lot of negativity from critics across the nation about this movie. And there's good reason for it. Orlando Bloom does a fine job here, but nothing that it could have been given Cameron Crowe's past success with pulling performances out of people who are otherwise not so good. The story isn't particularly original, and even mines some territory Crowe's covered before (but though comparisons are easy, this is NOT "Jerry Maguire"). It's cheesy. It's schmaltz.

But there's a reason I left the theater smiling. There's a reason I boarded the subway and bounded up the stairs to Newbury Comics to pick up not only the soundtrack (called "Elizabethtown: A Collection of Music to Drive and Live By"), but this CD that I don't even know what it is that's just called "Elizabethtown: Songs From the Brown Hotel" (they were out of or never had Nancy Wilson's amazing score). There's a reason I then nearly ran back to the dorm to throw this into my computer to listen to it. There's a reason it now blasts from my computer's speakers.

And it's not just because the music is simply wonderful, though that too is true.

It's because this is a fantastic film. There are a thousand ways critically you can bring it down, and between every article posted to Rotten Tomatoes that contributed to its 31% rating, you'll be able to find all of them.

And yes it's schmaltz. Of COURSE it's schmaltz. Of COURSE it's cheesy. But since when was that necessarily such a bad thing? If it draws you in, if you care about it and you feel every moment of it, bring on the schmaltz. "Jerry Maguire" was pure schmaltz. But it's fantastic.

This is an audience's film. It's one to grab your friends and sit in the middle of a huge crowd. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, this is THE movie to see with them. Or go alone. I grabbed my buddy Ben and went to the 8:00 show knowing full well I'd be sitting with the couples. Just sit down and let yourself be immersed in it. Take in the music that you know Crowe has picked especially so you can enjoy it. Watch small town America drift by as you drive across America. Remember your first love. Remember your last love. Remember the loves you never had but were just as sweet.

And you'll hear comparisons to "Garden State." If anyone tells you that, they never saw the film. Beyond a very BASIC plot structure, you could not find a more different film. It spends no time trying to be hip or weird or cool, but spends every second invested in the humanity of the story.

It's about love finding you when you absolutely need it the most. It's about reconnecting with your family when you'd pretty much written the idea off. It's about making a connection with a total stranger, be it romantic or friendly, and giving them that knowing sign everytime you see them. It's about impossible road trips that are so entirely impossible but so entirely real in their emotion. If you've been on a road trip, no matter its size, you'll feel the road moments in this film as much as you feel the love ones. And you'll know how much you would've killed for one of those cases to start on.

Orlando Bloom is an actor I have despised since "Pirates," and on through "Return of the King" and "Troy" and his presence in "Kingdom of Heaven" was enough for me to not care that the rest of it looked fantastic. And though one could pick apart his performance here, he was GOOD. He did exactly what he should: He was dynamic, exciting to watch, and drew me in at every turn. He made you CARE about Drew Baylor.

And Kirsten Dunst...I love her. I've ALWAYS loved her. From "Spider-Man" on through the first time I saw "The Virgin Suicides" to even "Wimbledon." This is her best performance to date. It's fantastic. Engaging as she always is to watch, Crowe managed to photograph her in a way I'd never seen her before. I have no idea what it was specifically, but it brought her far more down to earth and totally believable as a girl from small-town Kentucky. She has a quality that makes you WANT to watch her, and it was there. And beyond being the girl who rescues the guy from emotional lows, you CARE about Claire Colburn.

The rest of the supporting cast...fantastic. Crowe and his company never for one second lets any one of them just be another character in the film; merely a joke that you can rely on to cut to for a laugh. They matter.

I simply cannot recommend this enough. It's a FUNNY film. It's a HEARTFELT film. It loves and it cares about its audience, its characters, EVERYONE. My only regret in writing this is you might go with so high expectations that, slight as the chance is, you could be disappointed. And though it's worth every word I've written, it's a personal film. People will connect to it in a lot of different ways, just like every film Crowe has ever made. This is how I connected.

And that's one point I gotta make...this is not a film for everyone, but not in the same way "Oldboy" isn't for everyone. This isn't something you "get" or "don't get." There's not a whole lot to get. It's a matter of if you feel it or not. It's not a bad thing if you don't. I didn't feel an ounce of "Almost Famous" the first time I saw it, but when I tuned into it years later, I fell in love with it.

It's not "Almost Famous" (my second-favorite movie ever). It's not "Jerry Maguire" (my favorite romantic comedy ever). It's not at ALL "Garden State."

It's its own particular special brand of feel-great movie that makes me not for a second want to go back and read over this to make sure I'd said the wrong thing or written too much about it or see if I wrote anything embarrassing in my pure excitement or let it sit for a day and wonder if I really liked it as much as I think I do, because right now it's my favorite movie this year. That includes "Oldboy" or "Thumbsucker" or "A History of Violence" or "War of the Worlds" or any of the other movies I've been talking about whenever someone brings up movies to go see right now. I simply ADORE this movie.

And what you have just read is the feeling I got coming out of the movie. And THAT'S the feeling that matters in reviewing it.

Now go out, tell the critics to go to Hell on this one, and bask in it.

10 comments:

Magda said...

Yeah, I was surprised at how many negative reviews it got, because I loved it. Loved it.

It's just one of those movies... Go see it.

Pat said...

I despise Orlando Bloom.

Ken said...

I need more movies to take girls to, stat! Scott, that was a great review... I'll definitely see it now. By the way, I don't want to change the topic, but I do want to say that I saw Mad Hot Ballroom the other day and thought it was really good.

Nancy said...

Yeah, and it mentions OREGON!! You have no idea how many people here on the east coast have told me that Oregon just doesn't exist. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside.

ansaf x said...

better than crash?!?

Ken said...

I basically wet my pants when I saw that the helicopter was flying into Portland.

Miguel said...

dude, me too!

Doug said...

Yeah, me too, but Ken, you were wetting your pants for another reason.

Magda said...

Haha. Doug would know.

Ken said...

I use a different verb when I'm talking about that!!