Starring: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Biel, Alec Baldwin, Judy Greer
Director: Cameron Crowe
“Almost Famous.” “Jerry Maguire.” “Say Anything…” All of these films have one thing in common: they’re the cream of the crop. But lately, writer/director Cameron Crowe hasn’t delivered, instead focusing more on star power (“Vanilla Sky”) than the bare essentials that first made him a respected filmmaker. And while his newest feature, “Elizabethtown,” doesn’t get any closer to redemption, it does show signs of vintage Crowe throughout. But how can something fail without having someone to accuse? Blame it on pretty boy Orlando Bloom, who doesn’t shine unless he’s surrounded by three-foot actors; or blame it on Kirsten Dunst, who’s just a bit too pure to be the iconic Crowe love interest. But whatever you do, don’t blame it on Crowe himself; after all, the writer/director can’t be held responsible for terrible script choices, lingering edits, or an overall lack of, well, direction.
Drew Baylor (Bloom) is a rising star in the shoe design industry, but after his latest project turns into a failure – no, wait – a fiasco that costs the company upwards of a billion dollars, his mentor Phil (Alec Baldwin) fires him, and his girlfriend Ellen (Jessica Biel) gives him the boot. Planning to commit suicide by attaching a kitchen knife to his exercise machine, Drew gets a call from his sister Heather (Judy Greer) with horrible news. Worse than the fiasco he just endured? Kind of. His father’s dead, and his mother, Kitty (Susan Sarandon), has elected him to go down to Elizabethtown, Kentucky and handle all of the arrangements. On the plane ride over, Drew meets a lighthearted stewardess named Claire (Dunst) and the two instantly hit it off. But Drew has more pressing matters to attend to, namely getting to know his father before he puts him to rest for good.
The first twenty minutes of “Elizabethtown” is a brilliant satire of the corporate world, and could have even worked as a film of its own. This is where Bloom is at his best, and it’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of Drew’s biting wit throughout the movie. The rest of the first hour is also incredibly enjoyable, with the obvious differences between Drew and the Kentucky Baylors made evident through introductions and stories about his father’s days in Elizabethtown. However, the second half is so bad that you can’t help wondering if Crowe wrote the second part of the story asleep.
What’s ultimately problematic about the film, though, is Crowe’s indecisiveness as to what the movie is trying to say. Is the film about Drew’s relationship (or lack thereof) with his father, or Drew’s relationship with Claire; or even with himself? Crowe seems puzzled as to what kind of impact he wants his film to have on the audience, and so he includes a lot of unnecessary junk that would have been better off left on the cutting room floor. At least his trademark soundtrack is intact, but turning up the volume isn’t going to make the film move any quicker, or make the fake relationship between Bloom and Dunst seem any sweeter. "Elizabethtown" may be filled with dynamic characters and small-town charm, but it’s not as exciting as Crowe would lead you to believe.
The widescreen DVD release of "Elizabethtown" is an almost entirely dry disc when it comes to special features. The only thing available is a "Meet the Cast" featurette, two extended scenes and a production featurette entitled "Training Wheels." The biggest disappoint, however, is the lack of a Cameron Crowe director commentary track.