Posted on 11/05/05 01:55 PM
I'm beginning to think that 2005 is just a year for bad movies. I mean, I did like Good Night and Good Luck very much, mostly due to David Straithairn's suberb performance of Edward R. Murrow. That is one of my favorite movies of this year. But, even there, the writing and directing were kind of shakey. But it was George Clooney's second directoral effort, and for a second movie it was quite respectable.
I always had fairly high hopes about Elizabethtown, even if it was a movie for Gen-Yers. I've been a fan of Cameron Crow since the early '80s, when he appeared on the Today Show, talking about disguising himself as a teenager to attend high school to write what would become Fast Times at Ridgemont High. A few years later, he made the all-time best teen flick ever, Say Anything. And then he made two more classics, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. He started to slip a little with Vanilla Sky, a movie with many fine moments that didn't quite add up to a good movie. And, sadly, he's slipped even further with Elizabethtown.
The "name" casting of this movie looked fantastic. Orlando Bloom has taken it on the chin a bit for not being Jude Law (kind of ironically, Jude Law was also up for Bloom's signature role of Legolas, but didn't get it and went on to be the busiest young actor in cinema). People tend to look at Orlando as "just a pretty face." In Elizabethtown, he plays the part of a deeply depressed young man very well, and he has plenty to be depressed about in this movie. Just listen to him repeat himself during the first 10 minutes of this movie. "I'm fine....I'm fine." He's completely shutting down, and that's all he can say. Even so, he played it differently than when he was a deeply-depressed young man during the first part of Kingdom of Heaven. Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer were fine as Bloom's mother and sister. Frankly, I liked that the immediate family actually looked quite a bit alike.
Kirsten Dunst was maybe a little too pert (and have you ever been on a large airplane that was quite THAT empty?), but I enjoyed her. She and Orlando had a nice chemistry in part of the movie.
Part of the problem with the movie is that it had about two subplots/side scenes too many and way, way too many illogical plot twists.
The first problem with the movie is just the general illogic of the situation. If Mitch (the father) had moved his family out to the West Coast 27 years before, why in the world would his funeral have been in Elizabethtown? You can sort of understand the family gathering there (Mitch died there while visiting his brother), but if he'd been away so long, how could the funeral be happening there? Why in the world was everyone waving to Orlando as he drove through town? I mean, even though a few people loved his "Edsel" of shoes, and even though his father was something of a local icon, it made no sense. He drives through town on a weekday morning June, and people are out in the yards like it was a Saturday or the 4th of July or something. Don't any adults have day jobs in Elizabethtown?
This is one of those movies where all of the funny parts appear in the trailer, and most of the funny parts are Drew (Bloom) trying to understand his cousins. But it got kind of tiresome.
The second tiresome subplot happened when he checked into a hotel to try to rest. He wound up on a floor with an extended wedding party. It was like trying to rest on the same floor as a small, large convention. But he (and Dunst, when she shows up, as she inevitably does) winds up interacting with these people. ARRGGHHH!!
There was a scene of such incredible dumbness near the end that I was shocked Crowe didn't edit it out after the movie tanked on the festival rounds earlier this year. Do you think fire in a crowded function room is a funny idea? Crowe did. This scene could have been edited out with no loss at all to the plot - it didn't matter, it was completely unnecessary. It left a really bad taste in my mouth.
There's kind of a coda to the movie, which, frankly, seemed like a whole other movie. Bloom winds up, on Dunst's insistance, taking his father's ashes on a "road trip." That was mildly amusing, but, frankly, it felt like a whole different movie.
This could have been a really sweet movie if it just focused on Bloom emerging from his grief and falling for a whole different woman (Dunst). But whenever things got interesting between Bloom and Dunst, Crowe took us back to Elizabethtown and some other subplot.