September 7, 2005

Film review: Elizabethtown


By Ray Bennett

VENICE (Hollywood Reporter) - There's a winning little road
picture with an appealing couple and great music in
writer/director Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown," but it's not
until Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst blow town that it gets up
any speed.

Crowe makes an awkward start with a load of tosh about the
shoe business and he dwells far too long on a gaggle of
sentimental small-town stereotypes instead of getting the leads
out on Route 66 where they belong.

The over-elaborate film, screened Out of Competition at the
Venice International Film Festival, would be far better off
losing a third of its 133 minutes and its unnecessary length
may contribute to a slack box office unless the sparks that
finally occur between the leads prompts positive word of mouth.

Told in high spirits throughout, the story centers on Drew
Baylor (Bloom), a brilliant designer of running shoes who has
spent eight years ignoring friends and family while developing
a unique new shoe for footwear mogul Phil (Alec Baldwin).

For reasons not explained, the shoe is destined not just to
flop but flop catastrophically, costing Phil's company nearly
$1 billion. This turn of events causes Drew to contemplate
suicide by attaching a sharp knife to his exercise machine so
that it will stab him in the chest when he rides it.

Before he can pedal himself to death, however, his father
dies while visiting Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where he grew up,
and Drew is ordered by his sister and mother to travel from
their Oregon home to collect his body.

Drew turns out to be the only passenger going to
Elizabethtown on that flight and so attendant Claire (Dunst) is
able to give him her undivided attention. This inauspicious
beginning includes her divining the source of his despondency
and personality analysis based on people's names.

Elizabethtown, Drew discovers, is populated by the kind of
nosey, opinionated and loud people that cause so many to leave
small towns like that. The major conflict is over where Drew's
dad will be buried and whether or not he will be cremated, as
they don't believe in that kind of thing in rural areas of the
Blue Grass State.

Not only that, but Drew's mom Kitty (Susan Sarandon) is
generally regarded as a wild one as she took Drew's dad away
from Elizabethtown to California, even though they only lived
there for 18 months and have resided in Oregon for more than 20

There's a long and tiresome sequence in which a couple's
wedding banquet is taken over for a memorial to Drew's dad.
Kitty shows up, a very merry widow, and proceeds to dazzle
everyone with a comical speech and a tap dance to salute her
late husband.

Meanwhile, Claire has attached herself to Drew even though
she claims to have a married lover who is always out of town.
Finally, the fun part begins when Drew sets off in his rental
to drive from Kentucky across country to the coast, scattering
his dad's ashes at wonderful places along the way.

Drew is guided by an intricate map created and narrated by
Claire, complete with side visits, pit stops and fabulous music
as he cruises through places like Memphis, Tennessee and Eureka
Springs, Arkansas, and on to Oklahoma City and Scottsbluff,

The song score is excellent, with tracks from Lynyrd
Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Elton John and many others perfect for a
road trip. It's that, along with the chemistry of Bloom and
Dunst, and the great open roads of the American mid-south and
west that make the film worth seeing.

Paramount Pictures present a Cruise/Wagner/Vinyl Films

Drew Baylor: Orlando Bloom

Claire: Kirsten Dunst

Hollie Baylor: Susan Sarandon

Phil: Alec Baldwin

Bill Banyon: Bruce McGill

Heather Baylor: Judy Greer

Ellen: Jessica Biel

Jessie: Paul Schneider

Aunt Dora: Paula Deen

Uncle Dale: Loudon Wainwright

Aunt Lena: Alice Marie Crowe

Sharon: Patty Griffin

Director and screenwriter: Cameron Crowe

Producers: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Cameron Crowe

Executive producer: Donald J. Lee Jr.

Director of photography: John Toll

Production designer: Clay A. Griffith

Editor: David Moritz

Composer: Nancy Wilson

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter