Publicity Stills of "Elizabethtown"
(Courtesy from UIP)

Genre: Romance/Drama
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG

Official Website: http://www.elizabethtown.com

Release Date: 5 January 2006

Synopsis :

Hours after a ruinous product debut, suicidal industrial designer Drew Baylor learns of his father's sudden death. As the only son, Drew must travel to their small hometown of Elizabethtown, Kentucky to attend to his father's memorial. On the flight to Kentucky, Drew meets Claire, a quick-witted flight attendant, who helps him navigate the rough waters ahead and proves that amazing things happen when you least expect them.

Movie Review:

Cameron Crowe’s story cannot be justified within the space of a summary. Instead, like a mosaic sculpture, the story is joined by multiple pieces of postcards resulting in a beautiful film called Elizabethtown.

It is easy to launch a tirade against Cameron Crowe for his supposed lack of focus in Elizabethtown. Truth is, it is not one of his best works to date. It pales by and far to his Academy Award nominated films Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. Still, the film has its defining moments which affect the audience with the Southern charm.

Elizabethtown is about Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) whose life is turned upside down when a shoe he has designed takes the company he is working for on the brink of a bankrupt. Lonely and useless, he tries to kill himself only to discover that his father has passed away while visiting relatives in Elizabethtown. He returns home and upon request from his mother, Hollie Baylor (Susan Sarandon), he heads for Kentucky to retrieve his father’s body. Arriving in the down, he discovers a lot more about the father he once knew and the family he never really knew he had.

Despite being a very American film, Singaporeans can easily identify with the theme of family. Most of us are part of a large extended family; mostly members we never knew existed. Drew’s initial fear turns to warmth towards these people he had grown to love but overtime forgotten. Spending time with the Baylors, Drew starts to understand who his father really was. We are treated to flashbacks of a younger Drew and his father in happier times. In doing this, we are able to sympathize with Drew, knowing that their relationship has changed prior to his father’s Death. In an awkward scene, Cousin Jessie (Paul Schneider) asks him if he knew his father well. In replying “I knew him” we can see his pain knowing fair enough he has not been around much.

Cameron Crowe’s strength lies in making relationships between two people real and raw. On the flight to Kentucky, flight attendant Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst) chats him up. No surprise considering he was the only passenger and she the only attendant. While Claire is cherubic, there is a strange air about her that would make her seem like a stalker. Feeling quite alone, Drew eventually enlists the help of the chatty Claire and the duo engages in a lengthy telephone conversation. Cameron Crowe succeeds in depicting the blossoming of a romance in such a comfortable manner that you feel the actors were not acting for the camera.

Bloom is finally stepping out of roles in an ensemble cast. While he did well in The Calcium Kid and Ned Kelly, his turn as Drew Baylor lifts him out of stereotype hell. Having to play a character who is both straight-laced and rigid, he suits the role like a young John Cusack would. His opposite, Dunst, plays an adult who is carefree yet goofy. The fragility of their characters’ complex relationship is wonderfully tackled with Claire spouting, “You're always trying to break up with me, and we're not even together.” While the rest of the town people make up very real family members, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon are mostly underused.

A Cameron Crowe film is not complete without his eclectic taste for music. With the likes of Say Anything, Vanilla Sky and Almost Famous, he has proven, time and again why he is remembered for his ability to marry the perfect piece of music tailored for a specific scene. The same can be spoken for Elizabethtown in which Elton John’s My Father’s Gun strikes a haunting chord about a man coping with the loss of his father and learning more about the man as he progressed. Choosing the likes of Tom Petty and Patty Griffin further emphasizes the Southern charm and hospitality of Kentucky. To top things off, at a memorial service, Henry Mancini’s Moon River is perfectly fitted into the lineup. Not missing out on the action is Lynyrd Skynard’s Freebird which closes the ceremony in spectacular fashion. Should Crowe decide to quit making films, he should consider producing soundtracks.

Sure, some may feel that the movie has no direction. Imagine yourself on a break, enjoying a little road trip of your own ala Drew Baylor who does such in the final act. To relax and to warm up to the people of Elizabethtown will make you smile coming out of the theatre, reflecting as to how the harshest lesson in life can turn out to be the bridging of relationships.

Movie Rating:

(A postcard journey of music, humanity and warmth!)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri

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