Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is suicidal after losing his job when his sport shoe design loses his company a fortune. But he has to snap out of it at least momentarily when his father dies back in remote Elizabethtown, Kentucky, their home town. On his way home to for the burial, his flight attendant is the irrepressible Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who takes a liking to him and becomes a guardian angel bringing him an unexpected reversal of his gloomy state, with her joie de vivre.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's no doubt that Cameron Crowe's heart is in the right place, but Elizabethtown probably works better as a tribute to his late father (to whom the film is dedicated) than the uplifting romantic comedy to which he aspires. Kirsten Dunst is the film's bright shining star, and the best scenes are those when her effervescent Claire establishes a relationship with Orlando Bloom's lackluster Drew. But the story is self-serving and the bulk of the plot involving dozens of relatives intent on organising a fitting tribute to Drew's father who has just died, never flows naturally.
Bloom's Drew is going through a big dip in his life. Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, and when business failure turns into major fiasco, the obligations and responsibility that come with his father's death are yet another thing on his conscience. As the older child and the man of the family, it is up to him to head for Kentucky and meet rooms full of strangers who act as though they know him intimately.
There are some funny moments, and there is a wonderful scene when Drew arrives in his hotel room and leaves voicemail messages for his family, his ex-girlfriend and the airhostess he just met on the plane. They all ring back at once, of course, and the fun starts when Drew juggles all the calls. The scene also offers the film's best line, when he tells his sister Heather (Judy Greer) he will call her back, to which, she spits out 'Dial hell and I'll answer.' Another highlight is the first phone conversation between Drew and Claire, when they exchange intimacies as they each are doing mundane things. She is having a bath, painting her toenails, emptying the kitty litter; he is taking a leak and washing his undies. They wonder aloud whether their relationship has peaked while on the phone.
But ultimately the film is overlong and the climactic tribute scene in which Susan Sarandon's widow Hollie surprises everyone, falls flat. Crowe labours his point and Drew's final journey home is both contrived and derivative.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Of the half dozen films Cameron Crowe has made, two are brilliant evergreens: Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. Not a bad average. Elizabethtown will not be joining these films, even though it is made with the same heartfelt passion as was Almost Famous. It is nearly as autobiographical, too, but this time Crowe hasn't managed to find the right tone, allowed too many false notes to creep in and seriously miscast his characters.
A romantic comedy based on real life, Elizabethtown is never sure whether it wants to be a real story or a piece of fluffy fun. As Drew faces the enormity of his failure with a sport shoe, which gobbles up almost a billion dollars of the company that employs him, the tone is light, funny. When he goes home and prepares to kill himself, the tone doesn't change, so we can no longer take anything seriously. This means there is nothing at stake. This means boredom, and it's a two hour film. (Not to mention the gaping credibility holes already pockmarking the screenplay, or the shots of people driving while talking on mobile phones, and fiddling with the car's sound system, and other dangerous driving examples.)
Sadly, too often the film flops down into the homey but formless style of a well worn cinematic couch, too lazy to stir itself into any action. Meandering scenes that go nowhere - even though Drew spends a fair bit of time travelling by airplane and car - and a fitful story that delivers nothing more than a few chuckles, as far apart as vegetarians in Texas.
The cast is talented enough, but not useful in these roles. Susan Sarandon gets one showstopping scene, which doesn't gel with anything in the film, and Orlando Bloom is unable to captivate us with his dopey Drew. Kirsten Dunst, one of the rare breed of young female actors who have stayed 'real' in looks and manner, is given a sloppily drawn character with nothing but Pollyanna surface to work with.
The film was shown to critics with a taped introduction by Crowe, explaining where the film came from and how personal it is. We understand, but it doesn't help.
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CAST: Kirsten Dunst, Orlando Bloom, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Biel, Alec Baldwin
PRODUCER: Cameron Crowe, Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner
DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe
SCRIPT: Cameron Crowe
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toll
EDITOR: Mark Livolsi, David Moritz
MUSIC: Nancy Wilson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clay A. Griffith
RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 3, 2005