So the film was badly received at the last Toronto Festival and all but 30% of critics think it’s rotten. Fuck them. I’m here to tell you that if you love movies, music and that amazing girl you thought only existed in dreams, “Elizabethtown” will rock your world.
Granted, Cameron Crowe is my favorite working filmmaker (I always assume Tarantino is never gonna get off his ass and make another movie), so you could say I was predestined to love his latest like I love every flick he’s ever directed. Then again, it’s not like I’m unable to see the weaknesses in his work. Like in this case, I’m aware of how dumb it is to make the central tragedy of the protagonist’s life revolve around a running shoe, and I found Susan Sarandon’s performance as the hysterical widowed mother as embarrassing as everybody else. But what does that add up to, ten minutes of screen time? Why get stuck up on those few flaws when the remaining two hours are just about brilliant?
First, there’s Orlando Bloom, leaving sword and horse behind and revealing unexpected warmth, vulnerability and charm, like a young Jack Lemmon. So his character Drew is a freakin’ shoe designer whose latest creation is a fiasco that will lose his company nearly a billion dollars. Ok, that’s pretty stupid, as is the mean he intends to use to kill himself. But right about then, his cell phone rings and his ringtone is The Temptations’ I Can’t Get Next to You: “I can turn a grey sky blue…” That is beyond cool on so many levels that, right there, I knew the movie was gonna pick itself up from its shaky beginning.
Second, there’s Kirsten Dunst, lovelier than ever as Claire, a stewardess who befriends Drew on a flight from Oregon to Kentucky, where he’s to attend the memorial for his father, whose death has somehow postponed his son’s. Again, some could and have nitpicked the contrivance of there being apparently no one but the two on the plane, but it’s a fantasy, alright? More precisely, it illustrates the feeling you get when you meet someone special, that feeling of being the last two people on the planet, caught between the earth and the skies… Either that touches you or it doesn’t. You know in which category I fall.
The bulk of the picture takes place in the titular Kentucky small town, where Drew has to deal with a bunch of distant relatives who keep assaulting him with homemade food, anecdotes and noisy kids. Once more, I can see why someone wouldn’t respond to these scenes, but I liked how through this, we can feel the spirit of the father Drew didn’t get to know before it was too late. I also love how he’s guided through by his cousin Jessie, played with mucho gusto by Paul Schneider. The sideburns, how he feels that a dad should be able to be buddies with his kid, the old pipe dream of being the next Skynyrd… Great supporting character. Another nice touch is how the hotel Drew is staying at is overtaken by a particularly raucous weeklong wedding celebration (Chuck & Cindy!).
Then comes the already classic scene in which Drew calls Claire in the middle of the night. Haven’t you ever desperately wanted to talk to somebody in the wee hours but didn’t have anyone you could ring? “J’aimerais appeller quelqu’un, mais qui dieu?” Drew doesn’t get to talk to just anybody but to that elusive dream girl, all funny and weird and crazy/beautiful… And forward! I love how she’s not afraid to make all the moves, she just WON’T allow the guy to let laziness, insecurity, fear or self-pity stop him from taking that chance to be happy, you know? I love the real and insightful way their “almost romance” is handled by Crowe. There are all these reasons why their relationship shouldn’t work, but why not give it a try, goddammit!
Likewise, there are some false notes and some Whaaaa? moments in “Elizabethtown”, but I choose to take the good with the bad and to embrace this imperfect film. Let others be haters. It’s not all great, but the Bloom-Dunst scenes at least are, all great. I spent practically all of them swinging between happy tears and sad laughs and when the film ended, I genuinely missed these characters. Ain’t that the best thing you could say about a movie?