Unpopular Opinion: Elizabethtown
Written by:Alex Keen
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!I am not a Cameron Crowe devotee. For the most part I enjoy his movies but I am in no way a die hard. When looking over his filmography I have a wide array of opinions about his work.
I believe that SAY ANYTHING is a classic. I like SINGLES more for the soundtrack than for the movie but feel it presents a sliver of ‘90s life. JERRY MAGUIRE is a bit too artificial for my tastes but I can understand why it is liked. ALMOST FAMOUS has some classic scenes that I will never forget; however, I can’t seem to buy Kate Hudson’s performance. And yet, to this day, ALMOST FAMOUS has forever made me a Billy Crudup fan. VANILLA SKY was a wonderful looking remake of ABRE LOS OJOS but seemed to be missing the soul of the original. Considering I haven’t seen this movie in almost a decade, I probably need to give it a revisit.
Which leads me to the film I am supporting. No, scratch that. The film I am going to heap praise on. I’m here to tell you that I am enchanted by Cameron Crowe’s film, ELIZABETHTOWN. Slammed upon its release by critics calling it a “fiasco” and “schmaltzy”, ELIZABETHTOWN was a box office failure that died quickly and kept Crowe’s work off the screen for six years. Such a shame considering this film was just misunderstood.
At first I was hesitant to give ELIZABETHTOWN a shot. I skipped it in the theaters and the thought of seeing Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst making out in silly hats just wasn’t my cup of tea. And then on a lark, I checked the film out on Netflix and had my pants charmed off. There are a multitude of excellent elements about this film that surprised me: the soundtrack, Kirsten Dunst’s simple charm, Alec Baldwin’s ballsy comedy, and the genuine sadness at the core of the film.
"Don't I Hold You" - Wheat
It’s no big surprise that a Cameron Crowe film has a tremendous soundtrack. He brought us some of the most epic scenes set to music of the past decade (“In Your Eyes” in SAY ANYTHING and “Tiny Dancer” in ALMOST FAMOUS). He delivers much of the same here. Cuts from Tom Petty, U2, and Elton John are classic Crowe tracks. Yet, its tracks from My Morning Jacket, The Temptations, and, my favorite, Wheat, that steal the show. There’s a ton to listen to in this movie and I can guarantee that one of these tracks will be stuck in your head for the next day or two.
The next surprise was a charmingly simple performance by Kirsten Dunst. I’ll wholly admit to not liking Dunst in anything besides ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, VIRGIN SUICIDES, and MARIE ANTOINETTE (more on that in the future...). And yet, here she brings to the fore an adorably likable performance akin to something I’d never thought I see. She’s playful, delightful, cute, and mature all in the same work. The scene where she sneaks up on Orlando Bloom in the hotel lobby is perfectly romantic, playful, and natural that it is liable to be stolen by lesser filmmakers. Dunst shines in this role and proves that she can play the romantic lead like an adult.
Having not seen this film for a year or two, I was shocked on my recent revisit by Alec Baldwin’s comedic performance. Just a couple years before 30 ROCK hit the air, Baldwin brings this movie into the world with a hilarious opening that definitely paved the way for his sitcom future. He plays a fantastic greedy corporate executive and frames the collapse of Orlando Bloom’s character perfectly.
Finally, the greatest surprise about this movie is that it’s not exactly a romantic comedy. ELIZABETHTOWN is more of drama about dealing with the loss of a loved one... with sparks of realistic comedy and romance tossed in. If you bring a first date to see this movie you might not get the result that you hoped for. ELIZABETHTOWN is intended to take us through the shared misery of failure and loss. And, at the end of that journey goodness can be found. It’s not always pretty and it can sometimes be strange. But, at the end of the day, there are still many reasons to live.
Cameron Crowe’s journey through loss could have been cheesy and it could have been unrealistic. But for me ELIZABETHTOWN truly hits a chord. Sure, some wacky things happened in this movie... none of them are beyond reality. What I truly enjoy about this film was it’s honesty to characters and the larger story that would unfold.
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