Review: Elizabethtown

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.

Verdict

A thoughtful and moving mix tape, for those who care enough to roll down their windows and have a listen.

4/5

Review

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
“I like this book. It has pictures.”

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.

Elizabethtown
“Get a room.”

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.

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17 thoughts on “Review: Elizabethtown

  1. For me it is nostalgia, nostalgia. I remember it very well from 2005, and had a poster of it – with Bloom just out of the Lord of the Rings and being so hot and all, a lot of memories. And somehow, Biel, Baldwin and Sarandon all found a place in there. I need to re-watch it, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny, because I used to think Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst weren’t good actors at all. Then, this little movie came along and changed my mind. If you ever re-watch and write about it, I’d love to read your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, you already had me convinced at the mention that this one is from the same man behind Almost Famous. What a terrific movie that was: unbelievable 😀 I have not seen this movie yet. I just checked if it was available on Netflix, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I will keep this one in my mind though. Your review really sparked my interest for this film. As always, a great post! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Almost Famous too! I wanted to be a rock journalist as a kid after watching it. That dream never went far. 😂 There’s something about Cameron Crowe movies that always get to me. His stories always feel personal and are so full of heart.

      I hope you get to see it somewhen, Michel! And thanks for your kind words, it’s always good to hear from you. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jings! I can’t believe this is 12 years old! I honestly can’t remember much about this one, but can remember feeling pretty underwhelmed. Your review has made me want to rewatch it (I checked and it’s on Netflix!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you’ll like it better the second time round! I know many people wholeheartedly hated Elizabethtown, but I’ve always found the story rather charming. Bit like a modern, sensible fairy tale. More so than the romance, it is Drew’s coming to terms with his father’s death that I find most deeply affecting.

      It helps that the soundtrack is genuinely beautiful! Since re-watching it, My Father’s Gun has been stuck in my head every second. And I’m with you on Say Anything. It’s exceptional. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I seem to remember Kirsten Dunst character lacking anything, and maybe that’s what made me forget this film. I’ll give it another go. It is either on Netflix Canada or on one of our movie channels..I’ve seen it around lately.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Kirsten Dunst’s character is too sprightly, too quirky to be real. It’s understandable why the whole act gets on some people’s nerves. I thought she was lovely though. I’d love to know how your second viewing compares!

        Liked by 1 person

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