Saturday, August 15, 2015
Written & Directed By: Cameron Crowe
Cinematography By: John Toll
Editor: David Moritz
Music By: Nancy Wilson
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Biel, Judy Greer, Bruce McGill, Paul Schneider, Loudon Wainwright III, Alec Baldwin, Jed Rees, Paula Deen
After causing a loss of almost one billion dollars in his company, the shoe designer Drew Baylor decides to commit suicide. However, in the exact moment of his act of despair, he receives a phone call from his sister telling him that his beloved father had just died in Elizabethtown, and he should bring him back since his mother had problem with the relatives of his father. He travels in an empty red eye flight and meets the attendant Claire Colburn, who changes his view and perspective of life.
This film is like a quirky cult novel or at least it wants to be, by trying to appeal to a mass audience and be a blockbuster. It wants to be unconventional yet tries on all the hip clothes and wants to be liked by the cool kids.
I was personally excited for this film as it had Been 4 years since his last Film VANILLA SKY, which was a remake of the Spanish film OPEN YOUR EYES and once I knew this would be more of an original screenplay. I was all the more interested, until I began to see the trailers.
This film has a whole backstory behind the scenes of getting made. With many starts and many cancelations. That seems unfortunately to be a pattern these days for director Cameron Crowe. Now understand I am a fan of his earlier films as FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH was a hallmark for me growing up. Even his directorial debut THE WILD LIFE, while not as good as Fast Times (Which he only wrote) was memorable to a degree. Cameron Crowe always managed to be a modern romantic. Without going overboard into mushiness and gave his films not only a pop culture reality, but more of a conetemporary feel. Giving a comedic edge, though luckily never talking down to the audience.
Cameron Crowe had written the role of Drew Baylor with Orlando Bloom in mind. When Crowe originally offered Bloom the part, Bloom was unable to take it due to scheduling conflicts with Kingdom of Heaven. Crowe then cast Ashton Kutcher in the part but later felt that Kutcher and co-star Kirsten Dunst had no chemistry and decided to let him go. Crowe then pushed his January 2004 start shoot date back to July 2004 for a summer shoot. Many young actors that included Seann William Scott, James Franco, Colin Hanks, Christopher Masterson and Chris Evans auditioned for the part of Drew. Scott was seriously considered and nearly nabbed the part but Crowe pushed to get Bloom instead. When Bloom was able to work the film into his schedule, Crowe cast him in the part.
While I am sure certainly a better choice at the time Then Ashton Kutcher. Orlando Bloom, Proves to be one of the films biggest weaknesses. As he offers no Charisma and no energy in the role and seems like he is stranded and doesn’t know what to do. It might be that the script makes everyone else around him interesting. Yet continuously makes him boring and bland. Kutcher might have been an inspired choice only because of his handsomeness and quirkiness on screen. Though this role would have called for more dramatic scenes and talent that he hadn’t quite tapped into yet…or ever. Especially if the film SPREAD is any hint.
Cameron Crowe's first choice for the part of Claire Colburn was Kirsten Dunst. Dunst wanted the part very much but had already signed for The Village. Evan Rachel Wood (who was apparently too young) was then under consideration for the part but Dunst dropped out of The Village at the last moment to audition for the part and won it. Judy Greer, however, appeared in both "The Village" and "Elizabethtown". Scarlett Johansson auditioned for the role of Claire. And Jessica Biel auditioned for the role of Claire but was cast as Ellen instead.
Jane Fonda was originally set to play Hollie Baylor but dropped out when filming was delayed. She was replaced with Susan Sarandon
When it comes to this film, I believe it's a case of the director's heart being in the right place and wanting to convey a message to the audience. At the very least he is trying to tell a story that was near and dear to his heart, unfortunately he Bogged it down in over-sentementality, even for the audience he was aiming for (which seems more like he was courting) the film is trying to be earnest.
You can feel that the film is personal, so personal that the only person to really enjoy and get the film might be the filmmaker and those close to him. It's well intentioned with plenty of theory.
The writing makes the film feel like an on location episode of The television show ALLY MCBEAL. Overly sweet to the point of over saturation with emotions. To try and get the audience to identify with the film as well as entertain. The film has a great soundtrack that one wonders if the scenes were more inspired by the songs he chooses to use more then natural story elements. Since there are many scenes that just seem to add characters, but don't further the plot. It can be seen as enriching, but just makes the film feel longer.
Cameron Crowe here seems to have gotten comfortable and older. Making films using the same skills he always had when he was younger and using the same types of methods that have worked before for him. This is the first time they just didn't and come off as obvious and transparent. There is heart here yet it is buried by so much Americana throughout and little characters full of quirk as well as situations. That it feels insincere and pandering. Drowning out whatever goodwill there is. It also isn't subtle as it just seems to be blatant until you feel drowning in it. This might have worked in the past, but the film is too all over the place and most of it's notions feel classic, yet Don't work as easily as they once did. Especially for an experienced filmmaker he should know better.
The Claire Colburn character in this movie (played by Kirsten Dunst) was the reason for "The A.V. Club" columnist Nathan Rabin's coinage of the term "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl," which later entered into common usage in movie writing. Rabin's definition of the term, which first appeared in a 2007 article titled "My Year Of Flops/The Bataan Death March of Whimsy Case File #1: Elizabethtown," was: "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition. Audiences either want to marry her instantly (despite The Manic Pixie Dream Girl being, you know, a fictional character) or they want to commit grievous bodily harm against them and their immediate family. As for me, well, let's just say I'm not going to propose to Dunst's psychotically chipper waitress in the sky any time soon...(see Natalie Portman in Garden State for another prime example)."
Now i can't entirely blame him. This is his first original screenplay after the acclaimed, ALMOST FAMOUS a tale that was autobiographical. Here he tries to use what seems to be some personal experiences especially his feelings it seems about his father and works as a meditation through his feelings the best way he knows how to. Unfortunately once he does he also indulges in the factors that have so far worked previously. The unorthodox romance, the manic pixie dream girl who has no other life then to be there and advise him. Everything about this film seems to have a need or desire to be cute anytime it gets too close to reality. Make even the conventional be more quirky and artisanal. It seems like a story and draft that kept getting bigger and is too big as no one told him no to certain aspects.
This feels like a studio version of GARDEN STATE only with a bigger budget and more southern themed.
Yet you can see the influences of Billy Wilder and classic films in the work of Cameron Crowe. Here it just seems more expansive. The staging the emphasis more on dialogue and wacky situations. A philosophy of life and the craziness of it all which each character seems to have. Bleak situations made lighter by larger than life characters and elements.
Don't get me wrong there is much to like and admire in the film. Especially the final 20 minutes a road trip that is scored to Elton John's MY FATHER's GUN proves that director Crowe hasn't lost his ear for music and montages.
It is truly exhilarating. As in that scene the director finally brings out the emotions the rest of the film aimed for.
The film seems like it would work more as a book with it's quirkiness and odd tone and different directions it chooses to take and especially towards the end the road trip which feels like a travelogue for a dream road trip could have been better served in print and reading and hearing the details. Like you are there then just letting it be background in a montage to find deeper meaning and remind the audience of Americana. Which essentially this film ultimately feels like a melodramatic propaganda piece of Americans and dismantling of the American dream to show what is of true value in life.
The last film featuring character actor Gailard Sartain (ALI, MISSISSIPI BURNING, THE PATRIOT, THE REPLACEMENTS, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES) who retired from acting.
As Kirsten Dunst plays her role. When she is on screen that is when the film seems to find the time to be enjoyable. I even found Kirsten Dunst to go above and beyond with her role here. I just wish the film was as worthy. She is the manic pixie dream girl in question. This is also the film that had film critic/writer Nathan Rabin create the term manic pixie dream girl to describe a female character who is so quirky, wacky and perfect as she dispenses world weary Advice and has this demeanor of happy, yet needs to be saved. Her only purpose it seems is to inspire the male leads and make him fall in love with her. Though they have just met.
Which is part of the problem the characters never feel real they seem like fantasy versions of people you wish you could meet. They seem to have a certain sweet poetry to them. So in essence they always feel like characters of a writer.
The film leaves itself open to many questions throughout the film. In terms of logic, but are meant to help further the plot. I mean would a shoe company really put a hundred million dollar campaign on a new sneaker by an unproven designer and then never test the shoe? Then in today's times with rarities being so hip and getting too dollar for them. Wouldn't these sneakers become instant collector's items?
I understand that this film is a celebration of life in general. It just feels like with this film every scenes seems like it is attempting to be movie trailer ready and in essence a highlight reel upon itself.
The film early on tries to be darkly comedic but then again has to make everything so special and different that it comes off more as wacky. It's obvious this is a film that is deeply personal and when you do work that is deeply personal. You get blinded to things you normally would know to avoid or know to work around or edit out eventually, but usually this art work you are making is therapeutic to you dealing with your emotional state. We all cope in different ways.
This film is dealing with an emotional minefield while also being a celebration. More than a memorial and here and there you seen touches of the auteur coming in.
But it's with most things that are personal. yes some can relate, but some don't understand and are lost
It has a lot of emotional tangents. While filling the film with quirky lovable characters, but strangely while providing support these characters seem better suited in a television show.
As the film goes along we are meant to use the lead as a surrogate as all the crazy situations occur and we meet the rest of the characters. He is the only bland character and he is suicidal. Which is rarely brought up again after his cute failed attempt. I don't know if the character is written as bland or if that is Just the way Orlando bloom decides to portray him. He does what he is asked to do, but truly bring nothing to the role. No charisma to the character. He Is just so stiff.
Skip it, but with reservations as some might actually enjoy it and see it as sincere and pure.