A review of “Elizabethtown” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual references

Run Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

 

 

You have to admire Cameron Crowe for a notable body of work that spans teen classics “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (writer) and “Say Anything” to rock solid “Almost Famous” and on-the-money “Jerry Maguire”.

Maybe Crowe needs a breather, or perhaps he should beat a hasty retreat to a desert island until the shame of this messy romantic dramedy fades to black.

Crowe’s latest protagonist is Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) an up-and-coming running shoe exec on his way down after his highly touted sneaker crashes and burns to the tune of a $972 million loss.

Just when Drew is taking drastic measures of his own (involving a sharp knife and a stationary bike) he discovers that his father has suffered a heart attack and died while visiting kin in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Drew’s mom and sis (Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer) impress upon the prodigal son the urgent need to transport dad’s dress suit to Elizabethtown for the inevitable family memorial. En route Drew meets cute with impossibly perky Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst), a restless flight attendant who penetrates his melancholy like a trenchant laser beam.

For a guy for whom success is the only god the Elizabethtown experience is transcendent, or so Crowe would have you believe. Redneck relatives, ancient family skeletons and the persistent flight-mistress serve to launch our vulnerable hero into a psychological tailspin.

Crowe seems rather bewildered himself. His tribute to his own departed dad is a jumble of potentially intriguing concepts that rarely gel and leave the sticky residue of bad impromptu theater.

Crowe’s musical roots (Rolling Stone Magazine, etc.) demand that his films be set to a hipper-than-thou parade of esoteric hits meant to convey pathos, poignancy, you name it. I prefer realizing my own sentiments to having them telegraphed a la the tuneful stylings of Elton John or Tom Petty.

The soundtrack is a poor supplement to the action, which culminates in a shockingly maudlin cross-country road trip meant to inspire but is nothing more than a painful exercise in narrative desperation.

It’s not Dunst’s fault that “Elizabethtown” misfires; she’s a bright light inheriting her quirky gal-pal the way she was obviously directed to.  Her southern charm is a breath of fresh air amidst dramatic uncertainty. Bloom is pure flatline, offering none of the pain, turmoil or charisma one would expect from the It Boy.

Even diehard Crowe fans will cringe at his spectacular loss of focus and should sidestep this nebulous affair altogether.