' ' Cinema Romantico: Jerry Maguire

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jerry Maguire

There are three Cameron Crowe movies I hold so near and dear to my heart I could simply waste an entire post ranting about that topic, except I won't. The problem with holding movies near and dear to such a high degree is you tend to beat them into the ground, meaning you watch them far more times than you should and, thus, you tire of them. I beat his romantic comedy "Jerry Maguire" into the ground and a year or so later succeeded in beating his coming-of-age, autobiographical "Almost Famous" into the ground. Currently, I'm in the midst of beating "Elizabethtown" into the ground, though I have yet to succeed.

But beating a favorite movie into the ground can yield enormous dividends down the road for there will come a time when you spy it gathering dust amidst your proud DVD collection and think, "Man, I haven't watched that in awhile." And you put it on, and sit back, and from the instant it begins you smile, you feel warm inside, you feel happy, you're reminded of why you love movies with such vigor, and you almost get the sense you're watching it again for the first time.

Two things brought be back to "Jerry Maguire" just recently. 1.) I'm immersed in the world of romantic comedies. It's my personal goal to write three of them this year - I've completed one and am working on another right now - and so I wanted to re-visit one of the finest ever made. 2.) If you watch as much March Madness as I do then you have seen the commercial wherein Cuba Gooding Jr. breaks into Michael Jordan's dressing room and puts on his underwear at least 1,237 times. Is this really what it's come to for Cuba? He has to wear another man's underwear to pay the bills? It's morbidly depressing. I've harped on Cuba a lot on this blog but I remember him being so good in "Jerry Maguire". Was my memory an illusion? I had to find out. So to the DVD case I dashed, snagged the DVD I hadn't picked up in years, slid it in, and found myself re-mesmerized.

Therefore today I advise that I hold these truths to be self evident:

Cuba Gooding Jr. was fantastic as arrogant NFL wide receiver Rod Tidwell and deserved the hell outta' his Oscar. What's really strange to think about now - 12 years after this movie was released - is the fact that Randy Moss wasn't yet Randy Moss when "Jerry Maguire" hit theaters. Chad Johnson (i.e. Ocho Cinco) had not even arrived at Oregon State (did you know that's where he went to college?). Terrell Owens was just a gleam in the eye, not yet the lifeforce we now know as T.O. Somehow Gooding channeled these people who hadn't yet become what they are now. It's kinda' scary to think about but he foretold all these NFL wide receiver antics that are currently commonplace. And his first scene - the inital "show me the money" scene, right after Jerry Maguire has been fired - is a complete show-stopper. It's like Mercutio's first scene in "Romeo & Juliet" when he turns up and gives that speech (even though you don't really even know what the hell he's talking about) and it's just pulverizing and you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Gooding saunters about his Arizona home, bellowing commands and catchphrases into the phone, but as cocky as he is you realize there is also a certain amount of loyalty and love in this guy. Despite the fact Rod Tidwell's waterbed warehouse commercial is the equivalent of Gooding wearing Michael Jordan's underwear in real life this performance still resonates.

As good as Cuba Gooding Jr. was, Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd was better. Her facial expressions in this are on par with George C. Scott's in "Dr. Strangelove" and I don't care what any snot-nosed "film critic" thinks when I say that. It's true. I could watch that scene in her living room when she's reacting to a drunken Jerry a thousand times and not tire of it. Listen to the way she says "good evening" in this scene. It's more deft and far funnier than any line reading Frances McDormand gave in "Fargo", to whom Zellweger lost the Oscar. Puh-leeze. I felt that way then and I feel it now - that Oscar belonged to Renee. (McDormand's Minnesotan was approached cartoon levels. You want a real Minnesotan? It's Meryl Streep in "Prairie Home Companion". And how am I qualified to know this? I was raised by a Minnesotan.)

How in the name of all that is cinematically sacred and holy did "The English Patient" (in the words of Elaine Benes: "Stop telling your stupid story about the stupid desert and just die already!") win Best Picture over "Jerry Maguire"? The term Highway Robbery leaps to mind.

Was there ever a better role for Tom Cruise? (Aside from Maverick. But, like, duh.)

I remember wanting to stand and cheer the first time I saw the scene where Jerry makes his grand exit and wonders "who's coming with me?" and, of course, no one goes with him until the last second when Dorothy stands and declares that she will. I'd been de-sensitized to it after having seen it so many times but, man, after my hiatus I clapped quietly to myself at that moment. How f---ing awesome is that scene?

Up to this point Cameron Crowe had not been much of a visual filmmaker but that swiftly changed with this one. So much of it is bathed in soft light. Notice the shot where a, shall we say, clothes-less Kelly Preston opens the refrigerator. Plus, the way he establishes particular scenes is quick and imaginative - short stock shots of airplane wheels going down or pulling up when we go to the airplane scenes and the single shot of Dorothy's kid, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), to establish that we're at the wedding.

Okay, a few minor complaints. Ray is just too cute. Come on, be honest, you know it, too. His cuteness goes overboard. Couldn't they have toned him down just a little? And they make the whole Jerry is good at his professional life but bad at his personal life while Rod is vice-versa dichotomy way too pointed as the movie goes on. But they were making a romantic comedy and you know the old saying: appeal to the masses. And, oh yeah, the "Hootie" line. Nuh uh. It may have been funny in 1996 but now? Yuck.

The dialogue in this film is heaven-sent. Honestly. This is good, good stuff. There is some exposition, yes, but Crowe dramatizes it. And so much of it is load bearing. But most importantly Crowe gives every character a voice (even Chad the nanny and/or "child technician).

Listen to Rod yelling at who he thinks is Jerry on the phone: "Talking is only a primitive form of communication!"

Listen to Jerry's ex-fiance Avery (Kelly Preston): "I did the nose route to El Capitan in twenty-three hours, I can make this work!"

Listen to Aunt Laurel (Bonnie Hunt, with her ususal dry, deadpan grace): "Don't cry at the beginning of the date, just cry at the end. Like I do."

For God's sake, even Roy Firestone (as himself) gets a line that's totally in character: "Your brother lost his leg in a tragic bass fishing accident."

The funniest thing in the whole movie might just be Laurel watching from inside the house as Jerry proposes to Dorothy. No, no, no, wait! The funniest thing in the whole movie is when Chad the nanny gives Jerry the Miles Davis/John Coltrane tape. No, no, no, hold on! The funniest thing in the whole movie is when Rod sings "What's Going On" at Jerry's wedding with Chad the nanny on the maracas. No, no, no, I thought of something else! The funniest thing in the whole movie is on the airplane when Rod grabs hold of Jerry's hand leading the drunken Jerry to comment, "Oh..my..God." Wait, no! I've got it! The funniest thing in the whole movie is when Laurel asks Jerry if he wants coffee and Jerry replies, "We bottom feeders prefer cereal first." Yup, that's the one. I think....

And, oh yes, there's the scene at the end which displays just why Jerry is considered "master of the living room". You know the famous lines even if you've never seen the movie - "You complete me" and/or "You had me at hello." This scene has been parodied countless times and the parodies themselves have, ironically, been beaten to death. You can still watch the scene, however, within the context of the movie. If you're unable to because of those endless pop culture parodies, well, you probably watch too much "American Idol" and therefore I have no sympathy for you. Re-watching it so many years later all I can is this - it still works. And it's still awesome.

This whole movie is still awesome. As Rod Tidwell might say, "It's the kwan."


Wretched Genius said...

In all fairness, I also come from a family that is half-comprised of northern Minnesotans (Duluth), and I thought McDormand's accent was spot-on. She actually sounded just like my grandpa's 2nd wife.

And I still think that the best movie to portray Minnesotans is actually Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Nick Prigge said...

Okay, I apologize. I probably got a little too excited, as I'm, uh, wont to do. I just liked Zellweger better, a lot better.

I enjoyed Drop Dead Gorgeous. Ah, Kirsten before rehab. Those were the days.