I’d been meaning to check out Elizabethtown again because I remember it warmly. I saw it in the theaters and subsequently watched it on DVD. It’s now ten years old. I finally got around to catching up on it yesterday and wanted to speak about the movie and my experience with it.
In 2005, I was working as a bartender so my schedule was night-shift oriented. I watched a lot of films during that period in my life (and every other period, frankly) because a social life was near impossible outside of associating with people that worked the same schedule. They enjoyed all the cool kid things in life (drugs, booze, etc.), so I didn’t (and continue to not) have a lot of patience for them. Elizabethtownwas released just after my birthday in 2005 and I’d have just celebrated my 23rd year of life. During that period I was on the tail-end of my obsession with Cameron Crowe. I’d devoured Almost Famous repeatedly, enjoyed Vanilla Sky and Jerry Maguire, even venturing out to Singles and Say Anything. Elizabethtown would be the last Crowe film I’d see until the dreadful Aloha that came out earlier this year. I did start Almost Famous but wasn’t in the right mindset and shut it off within a half hour.
Suffice it to say, I was a fan of Crowe’s work. Elizabethtown was no different. The movie was light and aloof. It was exciting to watch the main character Drew (portrayed by Orlando Bloom) go from contemplating suicide to becoming a more charming person of substance. There were a few laughs (Alec Baldwin was great in his small role as Phil, the boss of Drew’s company) along the way and I felt it was a positive emotional journey. I felt that Drew ended up where he was supposed to be by the end of the film and that is a good feeling. The substance of the film that saw Drew have to eventually deal with the death of his father was really powerful to me. It resonated.
How does it hold up today, tens years later?
I’m going to be more critical of the film at this point. The acting isn’t great and some of the scripting feels forced. That feeling of aloofness and whimsy doesn’t come naturally (despite Claire’s character, as played by Kristen Dunst, trying to do just that). A few scripting choices and character motivations are definitely questionable. In retrospect, I remember them standing out ten years ago but I didn’t let my feeling for the movie get soured by it. Kristen Dunst is absolutely terrible in it. Was it her direction from Crowe? Was it her general lack of talent in the acting department? I’m not sure but what I do know is that she was awful in this film. Seeing Elizabethtown ten years after the Crowe-insanity subsided, I can honestly say that I don’t like her character. The flighty female lead is generally lost on me at this point. Orlando Bloom flips between a similar contrived feeling to Kristen Dunst’scharacter and displaying genuine moments of clarity (both acting and character-wise). I’ve seen him in other movies and never really felt that it was forced or contrived. On a side note, he was fantastic in Kingdom Of Heaven. All this leads me to think that it might actually be the script and direction behind the issues plaguing this film. Having seen Aloha just recently, it suffered from the same issues and I can’t help but feel that Cameron Crowe is probably the culprit and I shouldn’t be so critical of the actors. They were only working with what they were given.
Ugh. Is Almost Famous the same? What about the other Cameron Crowe films I enjoyed in the past? Are they as terrible in this department as Elizabethtown and Aloha? I don’t feel great about ever watching any of those films again now for fear of ruining what I remember them to be.
Having seen Elizabethtown with a more sensible mind ten years later, I can say that despite the movie having aged poorly there are a few enjoyable scenes. Drew’s road trip back home was great and his extended family was very relatable. The entire celebration of Drew’s father was fantastic with Free Bird just killing it. I wish the movie held up to ten years of growth on the viewer’s part better than it actually did. The soundtrack (like all Cameron Crowe films) is amazing but not simply enough to save what I feel is a let down on two fronts. Firstly, I shouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did then only to have it squashed now. Second, shame on Crowe for what I can in retrospect suggest is sloppy film work. His recycled themes that played out in Aloha only serve as emphasis for how his films haven’t grown at all. I’m hesitant about watching older movies that I loved in the past now but fortunately this doesn’t apply to all movies. Having watched both Ghostbusters in the past few weeks, I know that some will stand the test of time without a doubt.