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Rating History

Elizabethtown
Elizabethtown (2005)
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

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.

Broken Flowers
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I'm a movie fan. I used to go to at least 2 movies every month in the theater.

Until this week, I think the last movie I'd seen in a theater was [i]Batman Returns[/i], which I liked more than I expected to. But nothing since then has interested me. During this year, in general, I've probably only been to about a movie a month in the theater. Netflix and buying videos has picked up the slack. This summer's movies have done nothing for me at all.

Now, I do expect that to be a little different this fall, as, suddenly, I'm seeing trailers and reading about movies that sound either like fun ([i]Just Like Heaven[/i], [i]Prime[/i] and [i]In Her Shoes[/i]) or that they could be really good movies ([i]Little Fish[/i], [i]Elizabethtown[/i], [i]Serenity[/i], [i]The Fountain[/i], [i]Match Point[/i], and [i]King Kong[/i]). But this spring and summer have been a joke. Yeah, sure, I looked forward to [i]Revenge of the Sith[/i], after waiting for 28 years to see the first Darth Vader-Obi Wan showdown, but still! While the fight itself was pretty good, so much of the rest of the movie was an over-long video game that I wanted to scream!

This week, I made the serious mistake of seeing not one, but two movies in the theater. The first one, [i]Must Love Dogs[/i], I saw only because I've always liked John Cusak, Diane Lane and Elizabeth Perkins.

Big, big, big mistake.

It was hard to empathize with any of the characters. Oh, sure, with Diane Lane a little. But hearing Lloyd Dobler's (Cusak's memorably lovable slacker from [i]Say Anything[/i]) dialogue come from a 40ish man was disconcerting in the extreme. The characters were all over the place, but so were the reviews for this movie. So while this chick flick disappointed me, I wasn't really all that surprised.

On the other hand...

Many reviewers from Cannes talked about how wonderful Bill Murray's latest, [i]Broken Flowers[/i] was. It's still (as of 8/28/05) ranking an 88% on [url="../m/broken_flowers/"]Rotten Tomatoes[/url] from 130 reviewers, and a comparable 8 at [url="http://us.imdb.com/"]IMDB[/url] from 1,748 voters.

How???

After a year of mostly disappointing movies, this movie is just another of a pretty bad lot.

Don't get me wrong - I [b]love[/b] quiet, well-observed movies. I love movies where there's no real violence. I love movies where weird characters wander in and out. I love Robert Altman-style flicks. I don't even mind movies without a real conclusion. I should have adored this movie.

I came close to [b]hating[/b] this movie, but I stayed with it until the end (which is an odd reflection of the vastly better Tom Hanks film [i]Castaway[/i]).

At least one person in the small audience watching walked out of this movie after 20 minutes, never to return. A number of people at the end kind of went "What happened?" Makes you wonder how the critics universally loved this movie, because there's nothing (and I mean [b]nothing[/b]) there, beyond some cryptic performances by some of our better actresses.

I'm not the biggest Bill Murray fan, but I liked him in [i]Groundhog Day[/i] and in [i]Lost in Translation[/i]. With the right material, he's an interesting actor. This was categorically the wrong material. The problem is much more with the writing and directing than with the acting. But the acting just doesn't make the material any more interesting.

Here's the problem - the movie is, from start to finish, absolutely and completely illogical. There isn't a true moment anywhere in the movie.

Maybe it's a movie about a man who never really had a life and has a long nightmare about "what might have been." What if a woman I'd been involved with came back and told me I had a child I never expected to have?

First problem - Don Johnston (Bill Murray). People keep talking about him as a "Don Juan," and that point is further driven home by the fact that Johnston is watching a movie about Don Juan. But he completely fails to relate to people (men OR women) on any level. Granted, he is shown to be financially well-off. Money certainly can make many people attractive. But he was apparently involved with these women earlier in his life when he wasn't wealthy.

Second problem - Winston (Jeffrey Wright). At first, I thought Winston was Don's paid assistant. Turns out, he says he works three jobs, has aspirations to be a writer, is married and has five children. How in the world would he have the time to help Don to the extent he does? I liked their friendship, and the way Winston was trying to get Don to get involved in his own life rather than be a passive observer. But does Winston simply never sleep?

Third problem - Lolita (Alexis Dziena). Like Jeffrey Wright, my problem is not with the performer, but with the way s/he is written. The kid is named Lolita. So how does she behave? Exactly like Lolita. It was like she walked out of the book/movie of that name. And, at one point, she just walks naked in front of Don. In real life, have you ever heard of a 15-year-old girl walking naked in front of a 55-year-old male stranger? (In front of a hunky, 18-year-old male stranger, maybe, but in front of someone old enough to be her father or even grandfather? I don't think so!)

Now, there's a point later in the movie where Johnston dreams of that moment. It might have made a little more sense for him to have dreamed of her naked then - that he was never "Don Juan" but might have wanted to be. True, a moment like that would have looked like it dropped out of [i]American Beauty[/i], but I think it would have made more sense.

Fourth problem - Dora (Frances Conroy). Dora is so repressed that she makes Ruth from [i]Six Feet Under[/i] look like a wild woman. So how can Dora, who seems even more repressed and internal than Don, have had a relationship with Don? You can kind of understand the "opposites attract" relationship that Don and Laura or Don and Penny must have had. But Don and Dora? A photograph Don seems to have taken of a younger Dora implies that they were rather different people in the mid '80s (even if Dora looked more like a '60s flower child than an '80s woman). But what happened to them?

No matter how much you enjoy Frances Conroy or Jessica Lange or Sharon Stone or Tilda Swinton (who's only very briefly in the movie and is completely unrecognizable), it isn't worth going to this movie to see them.

Eleven years ago, many of us found [i]Four Weddings and a Funeral[/i] very enjoyable. That said, many of us were wildly frustrated by the character of Carrie (Andi MacDowell), who behaved quite illogically. Imagine a movie where none of the characters are quite so colorful and all of them act completely illogically. And there you have the problem with [i]Broken Flowers[/i].

Another problem is with the "road trip" itself. You see Bill Murray getting on planes and "flying around the country." At one point, his rental car seems to have a Colorado license plate. It's obvious from the scenery that he never really leaves the Northeast. It turns out to have been completely filmed in upstate New York and New Jersey. No surprise there.

So maybe the whole movie is just one man's "fantasy trip." If that's the case, the movie was just impossibly dull, dull, dull. And maybe that's why so many Cannes reviewers loved this movie - they're mostly 40-something white guys who can relate to Bill Murray. Sorry folks, this 40-something white woman was totally and completely bored by the exercise.

Will anyone ever make an interesting and/or enjoyable movie ever again? I've been thiking about going to see [i]Constant Gardener[/i] as I do like both Ralph Feinnes and Rachel Weiz. But is seems to be marketed as a "thriller," though many of the reviews make it sound like an interesting chracter study. I'm not prepared to go to the movies only to be pissed off again. I might just wait until I can see the final version of [i]Serenity[/i] in about a month (I saw the prelminary version in June and it was extremely promising). I might even wind up going to Cronenberg's [i]A History of Violence[/i] only because I really like Viggo Mortensen and feel Maria Bello is one of our most underrated actresses.

I should add - I'd never paid directly to see a Jim Jarmuch movie until today, and I'm unlikely to ever do so again. I've never paid directly to see a David Cronenberg movie before, though I saw [i]Dead Zone[/i] on cable and adored it and generally liked [i]The Fly[/i] as well. I don't like violence (in movies or IRL), and it apparently spills out of [i]A History of Violence[/i]. On the other hand, this flick is apparently one of the few to "dare" to depict sex between a married couple, something that's not even inferred in many movies these days! So, maybe I will see it in the theater. Consensual sex ought to be much more common than violence in movies, and it is either rarely seen or poorly depicted! At least [i]History of Violence[/i] is unlikely to bore me to tears the way [i]Broken Flowers[/i] and [i]Must Love Dogs[/i] did.