Elizabethtown (dir. Cameron Crowe, 2005) – When Drew Baylor gets a call about his father’s death, he puts his suicide attempt on hold and returns to his home in Elizabethtown.
A thoughtful and moving mix tape, for those who care enough to roll down their windows and have a listen.
Over the years, Cameron Crowe has brought us on personal and inspiring voyages through adolescence (Almost Famous), first love (Say Anything), and second chances (Jerry Maguire). With Elizabethtown, he has written an ostensible romance story that is more than anything, a probing journey into the hearts of adulthood.
This one belongs to Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), who has invested his whole life into what he believes to be his big break. But dreams can take no more than a second to shatter. When hit by a fiasco in his career, he sees his only way out in a despondent suicide attempt.
His salvation comes in an unexpected phone call about his father’s death, then in the serendipitous encounter with chipper flight attendant Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). Things take a turn in his home Elizabethtown, where Drew learns to find himself again, as well as his lost connection with his late father.
Elizabethtown sees Crowe’s usual proclivity for featuring classic rock ballads, the uncool, and above all, a rare perceptivity towards the complexities of people. His introspective film acknowledges the dysfunction of human relationships and the absurdities of society, while reminding us of the extant joy in life that takes patience to extract.
The story goes beyond Drew’s strife with his professional catastrophe and grief. His mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon) is struggling to deal with the loss of her husband. His cousin Jessie (Paul Schneider) is trying to raise his wayward son as a single parent. Even the optimistic Claire hides her insecurities beneath her quirks.
These are the people, who get hung up on failures and never stop to consider their little victories each day. But it is only until they learn to live in the moment, when they discover what could have been. Therein lies an optimistic message that redefines the meaning of success and failure, reiterated in Claire’s directive, “You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard… And proceed.”
What could have been sentimental in lesser hands, is instead a moving and often funny reflection of reality. Cameron Crowe uses the power of music to drive his big evocative moments, with soulful ballads from the likes of Ryan Adams, Elton John, and Fleetwood Mac. Perhaps none will leave a stronger impression than Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, which Jessie Baylor kills at the incendiary reunion gig of the legendary Ruckus.
Accompanied by the beautiful soundtrack and genuine humour, Elizabethtown is as much a sincere love letter to music, as it is to life. For if there is one thing that Cameron Crowe knows best other than music, it is the charm of authenticity worth the distance of the scenic route.