Elizabethtown finds director Cameron Crowe passing off memoirs from his own tragicomedy as a feature-length film. We all know that death is a confusing time, but isn't laughter usually the best remedy? Let's hope, for his sakes, some closure has been reached.
Elizabethtown starts out with Drew (Orlando Bloom) filling us in, voice-over style, on his life (á la Tom Cruise in Crowe's Jerry Maguire). As a once great hotshot shoe designer, Drew just lost his company nearly $1 billion. Yeah, not good. But just before he gives up on life completely, he learns that his dad has died and he has to travel to Elizabethtown, Kentucky (where Crowe's dad was actually from) for the funeral. On his flight, he meets spirited flight attendant Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who tries to tell him a thing or two about Kentucky. When he gets there, he's a fish out of water all right, but who's there to help him with life, love and his distant country bumpkin relatives? You guessed it--Claire, who saves Drew from himself.
Elizabethtown is, in a way, an Orlando Bloom expose. He finally gets a chance to flex his dramatic muscle in a contemporary setting but, boy, does he have some heavy lifting to do. The Brit occasionally looks all serious, but his American accent is hardly credible--as is the case with most overseas imports. The character he molds is neither here nor there. As his love interest, Dunst fares much better, delivering more spunk than any of the rest of the large cast, save for perhaps Susan Sarandon, as Drew's bereft mother. This could be her best performance to date, partly because she gets to play the endearing quirky girl rather than the hard-to-get variety. The rest of the eccentric cast fill in the blanks nicely.
A new Cameron Crowe film is usually an exciting thing, since he doesn't make them that often. But in Elizabethtown's case, Crowe misses the mark. Full of flaws and ambiguity, it's a mess, despite a few undeniably warm-and-fuzzy moments. The man can write dialogue, there's no question, and he prides himself on characters that are real and palpable. But when Claire takes her mental pictures she has to motion and say ''click'' to alert the audience to what she's doing. The list goes on. The low point is the end, when a road trip turns Crowe into a DJ, boasting his musical IQ by playing more songs than can fit on the soundtrack. This last-ditch effort is at once pointless, gratuitous and self-indulgent.
Those who love Cameron Crowe may turn a blind eye to Elizabethtown's self-indulgence. But for others, they might realize the director is stuck in Elizabethtown.