UK release date: 4 November 2005

cast list
Orlando Bloom
Kirsten Dunst
Susan Sarandon
Alec Baldwin
Judy Greer
Jessica Biel

directed by
Cameron Crowe

Remember the old saying that every dog has its day? Well, in the movie world, every reputable filmmaker has his or her dog. Stanley Kubrick hadBarry Lyndon, Steven Spielberg is guilty of both 1941 and Hook, while Alfred Hitchcock finished his career with the rather underwhelming Family Plot. Cameron Crowe joins this club with Elizabethtown.

Orlando Bloom plays Drew, a hotshot sneaker designer who, at the beginning of the film, is about to get the ultimate comeuppance: the dream sneaker he designed is about to cost his company a billion dollars in lost sales. As if that isn’t enough to ruin his day, his girlfriend Ellen (Jessica Biel) is about to dump him and he is about to learn that his father has passed away.

En route to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to retrieve the body for cremation as well as meet his relatives and large amount of family acquaintances, Drew meets a stewardess named Claire (Kirsten Dunst). Starting with a series of directions to help get Drew from the airport to Elizabethtown, the quick-witted young woman soon becomes the shoe designer’s guide and sole source of sanity over the next few tumultuous days.

After delivering such great films as Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky and Almost Famous (1992’s Singles is slight but fun), it’s difficult not to expect Crowe to deliver another winner here. All of the traditional elements that shaped his other movies into winners are here, such as a talented ensemble cast and a great music soundtrack. The only problem is that when the fundamentals come together, they don’t shape into a decent movie.

Elizabethtown has a ton of story threads that are never fully developed, characters that are remarkably thin, an overdose of failed sentimentality and scenes intended to be funny that wind up being cringe-inducing at best (Exhibit A: Susan Sarandon’s standup routine at her late husband’s memorial). All of this culminates in a tedious cross-country road trip Drew undertakes at the end, a section Crowe should have taken a pair of scissors to when he edited approximately 15 minutes out of footage at the last minute.

Augmenting the deficiencies in Crowe’s writing is his directing. Failing to find or keep a consistent tone or true identity for the film, one sits and wonders just what he had in mind, and what exactly is it all supposed to be about: is it a story about familial relationships? Is it an examination of relationships between fathers and sons? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a film about being on the road to self-discovery and enlightenment? The mind wonders.

At this point, I doubt any director out there could get a decent performance out of Orlando Bloom that requires him to speak more than five lines of dialogue, so the blame for his ineffective performance can be split between director and star (it could have been worse. Crowe could have stuck with choice number one: Aston Kutcher). Sarandon and Greer come off as irritating, while Biel only impresses on a visual level. Only Dunst and Alec Baldwin, as Drew’s boss, manage to make any sort of positive impression.

I have no doubt that Cameron Crowe, one of the better voices in cinematoday, will rebound with his next effort. Until then, the only way oneshould visit Elizabethtown, short of actually taking a trip there, isto buy the soundtrack CD and skip the film.

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