Newest Review: ... and uses his exercise machine with a knife attached to the arm as a method for killing himself, its after watching the whole of the film... more
Death, love and rebirth
Member Name: sunmeilan
Advantages: Great soundtrack, Orlando Bloom
Disadvantages: Kirsten Dunst's voice grates, meanders
Drew Baylor designs shoes for a major manufacturer and seems to be doing brilliantly...until he designs a dud that bombs and loses the company $1 billion. Fired by his boss and dumped by his girlfriend, he is about to commit suicide when his sister rings to say that their father has died away from home and he has to go to Elizabethtown in Kentucky to fetch his body. Suicide plans on hold, Drew meets Claire an air stewardess on the plane on the way there and, because she knows Kentucky, draws him a map of how to get to Elizabethtown, on which she also writes her phone number. Over the course of the next few days, Drew has to cope with his family and the funeral plans and ends up speaking to Claire on the phone and then meeting her in person. Claire's quirkiness helps Drew to see life in a different way. Is this a romance that can last? Will Drew eventually come to terms with his career failure?
British actor Orlando Bloom plays Drew and, apart from the fact that he is very easy on the eye, does a good job in the role - considering that there isn't a great deal of depth to it. He does have to show a variety of emotions - euphoria, devastation, grief, impatience and a slow recognition that life isn't so very bad. However, it is a little bit like paint by numbers, not because he doesn't act well, but because the story/director (Cameron Crowe) doesn't allow him to do more than show his feelings with a couple of meaningful shots. It's a shame, because this is a long film and there was plenty of opportunity to add a bit more depth to Drew, but it didn't really happen. Nevertheless, within the confines of Drew's role, I thought Orlando Bloom was good - certainly good enough for me to want to see a bit more of him.
Kirsten Dunst seems to attract a lot of attention - positive and negative. On the whole, I like her - she is one of the lead characters in The Cat's Meow, a real favourite of mine. However, her role as Claire isn't one of her best. The quirkiness to her character that Drew finds so attractive is actually very annoying and her voice begins to grate after a while. The sentiment behind her trying to drag Drew out of his depression is a sweet one, but it comes over as being over-the-top - something that Dunst might have been able to avoid had she pulled back just a little. On a more positive note, her chemistry with Bloom is really good; I found it easy to believe that they were a couple falling in love - despite the rather odd story.
There are a few familiar faces littered throughout the film. Susan Sarandon plays Drew's mother and is very entertaining at the funeral, when she gives a stand-up comedy performance. It doesn't sound very appropriate, but in the context of the film, it works well. A rather fleshy Alex Baldwin plays Drew's boss, and also manages to add a few sparks of humour to the film. Jessica Biel fans will be pleased to see her as Drew's fairweather girlfriend, but she doesn't really have to do much except look good. Finally, I enjoyed seeing Judy Greer, who plays Drew's sister Heather. She's actually a talented actress, with good comic timing, but always gets side-tracked in movies, as she does here. I'd like to see her in something a bit more meaty.
The story is the real let-down for this movie. I'm interested in mental health issues and have suffered badly from clinical depression in the past, so the concept of someone rebuilding their life after a complete melt-down is always appealing to me. However, there are a lot of films that are about this concept, so a little effort to develop the story to make it different from the rest is really necessary. With Elizabethtown, it just didn't feel like a great deal of effort had been put into it. Much of the film meanders from road trip to funeral conversations to Drew and Claire and then back to road trip again and so on. In fact, a lot of the film seems to involve Drew in a car driving around America. It is occasionally interesting - I enjoyed the Martin Luther King references in particular - but it has little to do with the story as a whole and just felt superfluous.
I felt that Drew's suicide preparation was turned into a bit of a joke. I know (all too well) that people aren't thinking straight when they are about to kill themselves; nevertheless the way that he was planning it was really quite bizarre and done for a laugh more than anything else. It's not something I'm going to lose any sleep over, but I think a bit more tact could have been shown. On the whole though, I appreciated the touches of humour. They lightened what otherwise could have been an incredibly tedious film about navel-gazing, with a touch of romance thrown into the mix, and made it a lot more palatable.
Another thing that lightened the film and made me almost forgive the road trip scenes was the music, which was really superb. I'm a big fan of Tom Petty, and there was plenty of his music - including It'll All Work Out and Learning to Fly. There was some Fleetwood Mac (Big Love), Elton John (My Father's Gun), Simple Minds (Promised You a Miracle) and U2 (Pride (In the Name of Love)). Drew's cousin performed Freebird at his father's funeral, which was incredibly well done considering it wasn't performed by the Masters themselves (Lynyrd Skynyrd). All in all, it is one of the few soundtracks that I would like to buy - it just has so many songs that mean a great deal to me personally (yes, I was a teenager in the eighties!).
There are a number of extras, but none that are really worth seeing. There's something called Training Wheels, which are just short clips of the main actors seemingly auditioning. Meet the Crew is the same, but for the crew. The extended scenes were marginally interesting, but to be honest, I'm glad that they weren't included in the film, which is already long enough. Then there's a photo gallery and two trailers for the film. I would much rather seen a making of documentary - I know some people find them boring, but I like the insights that they provide. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
On the whole, I think this film is average. It didn't leave me with any great impression, with the exception of the soundtrack. I didn't find it dull enough to turn off, but I can imagine that some people would find it hard to watch all the way through. It certainly could have done with a bit of editing. However, Orlando Bloom is good to look at and the comic moments, although not hilarious, do revive the attention a little. If you haven't seen the film and happen to come across it, then it's worth a look, but don't go out of your way to watch it. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Classification: 12 (the preparing for suicide scene is the only one to be concerned about)
Running time: 119 minutes
Summary: Worth a watch on TV, but don't pay for it