ELIZABETHTOWN

 

Review by Mark Walters

 

Drew Taylor (Orlando Bloom) walks into work a failure.  The shoe company he works for marketed what was supposed to be a revolutionary new design he came up with, only to end up having ALL of them recalled for undisclosed reasons.  His boss Phil (Alec Baldwin) not only takes away Drew's job, but asks him to publicly take the fall for the company's $1 billion loss.  To make matters even worse his girlfriend Ellen (Jessica Biel) seems to no longer have interest in him either.  Drew heads home ready to end his life, since there's not much point in living anymore, but just before he can see it through the phone rings.  His sister (Judy Greer) informs him that their dad has died, and his mom (Susan Sarandon) needs him to handle the funeral arrangements with the other side of their family.  He decides to postpone his suicide long enough to help.  Along the way he meets an enthusiastic flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who seems to take more than a passing interest in him.  He reunites with his dad's family and friends, who don't want cremation to be considered, despite the man's dying wishes.  Drew faces one personal struggle after another, causing him to revaluate his life, and seriously consider the importance of lost time with loved ones.

It's easy to say that writer/director Cameron Crowe knows a few things about the human condition.  This film is unique and unusual, but at the same time so very familiar.  We can see some of ourselves in Drew, and sympathize with his feelings throughout the various experiences.  Orlando Bloom does a fine job of becoming this young American man rushed into a life of success, and subsequent downfall.  Kirsten Dunst is pretty good too as the quirky voice of reason for our hero.  The film is filled with fun supporting characters, all of which work rather well within the story.  Susan Sarandon is used sparingly, but has some really great moments as the mother who isn't quite sure how to deal with the loss of her husband.  Judy Greer also feels very real as Drew's neurotic sister.  I particularly liked Paul Schneider as Drew's cousin Jessie, who can't seem to let go of his younger band days long enough to bond with his own son.  Also providing some fantastic comic relief is Jed Rees as Chuck, a consistently drunken newlywed sharing the same hotel floor as Drew.  Then there's the stunning Jessica Biel, who briefly gets a chance to play a less than lovable girlfriend here.  Man, I could stare at her for days... oh, sorry, back to the review.  Some of the scenes where Drew walks into a big family dinner will almost certainly seem recognizable to you.  There are random point of view shots that quite literally take us into Drew's perspective.

The movie makes great use of music, as do most Crowe films.  The soundtrack truly enhances each moment, adding extra levels of enjoyment to this personal story.  Overall the film is done very nicely.  It's one of those human interest dramas, some might consider disguised as a romantic comedy.  But don't let the trailers fool you.  This movie is about Drew's emotional journey and self-evaluation.  It begs the question, when you've missed out on important moments in life, and encountered massive failure in what you do, is it ever too late to turn things around?  In some ways this reminds me of a John Hughes film from the 80's, especially since it's familiarity to American life comes across so naturally.  The film runs a hair over two hours, and though the "finale" seems a tad drawn out, it's still a great effort in the end.  I like it when Cameron Crowe does these types of personal stories.  JERRY MAGUIRE and ALMOST FAMOUS showed us the man can weave an interesting tale, though VANILLA SKY may have been too much of a departure from his strengths.  ELIZABETHTOWN just works.  It's nothing fancy or overwhelming, and it's probably not his strongest flick, but in the end this slice of American life is totally worth a look.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give ELIZABETHTOWN a 9.


Visit the official Paramount Pictures ELIZABETHTOWN movie website by clicking here.

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