This is part movie review and part random thoughts generated by watching the movie. “Elizabethtown” (2005) stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, with wonderful supporting roles played by Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Paul Schneider, and a host of others. It was written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Yes, it is a romantic comedy. No, it generally did not get good reviews from official reviewers. According to Yahoo Movies the critics gave it a “C.” But sometimes a movie has meaning the average person can’t see. Sometimes a movie speaks to the soul.
Drew Baylor (Bloom) is the creative genius behind a revolutionary new shoe. Unfortunately the world is not ready for this shoe, and it loses his company $972,000,000. As his boss, Phil (Baldwin) points out, you could round that off to a billion dollars. In fact, after telling Drew “it’s only money,” Phil goes into great detail letting Drew know what that means for the company, and people attached to the company. The kicker is when he talks about how they will have to get rid of their environmental watchdog program; “We could have saved the planet, but . . . ” So now the planet will go down the tubes because of Drew? AARGH! It’s really easy to dislike Phil. And of course, Phil puts the blame on Drew. What, the president of a major company and all its marketing division didn’t see this coming?
Drew goes home and comes up with a very creative way to commit suicide. (Did I mention his superficial girlfriend broke up with him because of this shoe fiasco?) Just as Drew is about to do the deed, he gets a phone call from his sister — his father has just died of a heart attack while back in Kentucky, visiting relatives. His family drafts him to fly from Oregon to Kentucky to deal with the extended family and all the arrangements.
Of course, he meets a woman. (This IS a romantic comedy.) Claire (Dunst) is an airline attendant who gives him directions to Elizabethtown, advice about people, and advice about how to pronounce “Louisville.” [Now if I ever visit there, at least I won’t pronounce it like I’m from California.] She is a student of people (and names), and is the most positive thing that has happened to Drew since this fiasco began. Of course, she has a boyfriend, and Drew is still determined to go home and commit suicide (though he doesn’t tell her that’s why he holds back), so this relationship can’t work. There has to be something in the way to build tension, doesn’t there?
Kentucky is a whole other world for Drew, full of people who know many things about him and whom he doesn’t know at all. They insist on saying he is from California, though he’s lived in Oregon for 27 years. [What makes this particularly interesting is that for many years people from Oregon tended to dislike people from California, because they were always moving up and trying to tell the old-timers what to do.] And when Drew mentions cremation, they are aghast. While they all rally around him, the only relative who seems to understand some of what Drew is going through is his cousin, Jessie (Schneider). And then there is Claire.
I don’t want to give too much of the movie away, so let’s just say this is about a journey, both metaphorical and literal. It is about grieving, and family, and how death gives birth to life.
Now, why have I watched this movie dozens of times? We bought the DVD as soon as it came out, because the movie came and went in our “action-adventure” oriented community before we could see it at the theatre. And we enjoyed watching it. Then I got laid off, from a job I’ve been training for for eight years. By people who knew the money wasn’t there when they hired me, and who made it clear that because I was doing my job properly or as trained, the money was no longer there to pay employees. People who clearly do not want to be identified as being associated with a fiasco. Like Drew, I was depressed. Unlike Drew, I lack an extended family, or the need to make a literal journey. But I have friends. And I had this movie, to watch over and over and over . . .
As I wrote at the beginning, sometimes a movie speaks to the soul. “Elizabethtown” spoke to mine, and I suspect it speaks to others. It runs 123 minutes, and is rated PG-13 (for language and some sexual references). On a scale from 1 to 5, I give it a 4.7. But that’s just me — I’m a Judith. 🙂