' Cinema Romantico: Elizabethtown on Main St.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Elizabethtown on Main St.

Cameron Crowe’s latest opus “Elizabethtown” has been garnering a lot of flack from critics across the country and I feel it’s my duty to stand up and defend it. It is to film what the Rolling Stones' album “Exile on Main St.” is to music – a big, sprawling, fantastic mess with glorious hits and painful misses. On “Exile” why would you want to waste valuable time whining about the likes of “Casino Boogie” or “Shake Your Hips” or “Let it Loose” or “Soul Survivor” when, for the love of God, you can cheer the brilliance of “Rocks Off” and “Sweet Virginia” and “Tumbling Dice” and “Torn and Frayed” and “Happy” and “All Down the Line”?

It tells the story of shoe genius – yes, I said shoe genius – Drew Baylor (played relatively well by Orlando Bloom) who brings down his company and turns quite suicidal before learning his father has passed away. Frankly speaking, I didn’t really buy this subplot. Movies often find excuses to take their characters to the lowest point possible in order for them to rise up but this one felt more manufactured than most - the script certainly had enough to take him to those depths with his father's death on its own. I've heard Cameron Crowe left much of this opening subplot on the cutting room floor. Perhaps by the end of editing he wasn't able to cut all of it but, nevertheless, it doesn't fatally damage the film. It's once Drew finds out his father has died and he heads to Elizabethtown, Kentucky that the story takes flight. As often happens when a movie character returns home for a funeral, he finds love and deals with his many wacky relatives.

It's the love story with a perky stewardess (Kirsten Dunst) that drives the movie but in my humble opinion the film is stolen by Paul Scheinder as Drew's cousin Jessie in a performance that is wacky, truthful and funny all at the same time. And it is through cousin Jessie's band that "Elizabethtown" becomes the first film in history to put the song "Free Bird" to good use. You'll believe it when you see it.

I cannot tell a lie - there are a few wretched, awkward scenes throughout all this but there are also some that rise to the level of magic. I think specifically about our two romantic leads talking on the phone all night before driving to one another to see the sunrise. Admittedly, this is only a scene that works if you’re a romantic. But I am a romantic, so there you go. If you’re a romantic, this movie’s for you. If you sit in your dank cubicle yearning for a road trip to clear your head, this movie’s for you. If you find there's nothing better than a well-crafted mix CD, this movie's for you. Otherwise, maybe not.

So few movies anymore even try to be anything more than “exactly what I expected” (the phrase I despise the most when it comes to cinema). This movie may fail at times but it’s always trying to be something more than what I expected. For that, I congratulate it.

3 comments:

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Estrella said...

hi. just came across your blog and enjoyed reading your thoughts on some of my favorite movies. i'm glad someone is sticking up for "Elizabethtown." i think it is a movie that is a good reflextion on our society... i mean what other country could have marketers saying "this fiasco could have the whole country returning to bare feet" and actually believe things so stupid are impacting society that much? it's a movie about pushing aside commercialism and business and realizing that happiness is found in loving and enjoying people. in the simple things.