Film Review **1/2: ‘Elizabethtown’ Can’t Be Put Into a Neat Box
At Last, an Orlando Bloom Character Without a Sword
By Natania Antler
Starring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst
Written and Directed by Cameron Crowe
Would you feel like committing suicide if your company lost $972 million on your watch? Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), an engineer/shoe designer for the firm Mercury Shoes, is responsible for exactly that in the beginning of the film “Elizabethtown.” He considers committing suicide after coming home from a disastrous day at work. In the only indication of his engineering background in the entire movie, we watch him try to build something that will end his life out of an exercise bike, duct tape, and a knife. A combination of a ringing cell phone and badly applied duct tape save his life and reveal the premise of the movie.
Drew’s father, Mitch Baylor, died while visiting his hometown, and so Drew must travel to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to represent the “California” part of the family. On the plane to Louisville, Drew is taught how to say Louisville correctly (Loo-uh-vul) by a talkative flight attendant, Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). We watch as Drew falls in love with Claire, mends ties with his Kentucky family, grieves for his father, and addresses his feelings about the spectacular failure of his line of shoes.
“Elizabethtown” does not fit into a neat box or genre, and it deals with much more than one subject. The movie is hard to define and cannot be summarized in one grammatically correct sentence. This works to its advantage, in that the movie feels one of a kind. On the other hand, this can put viewers on the defensive because they have no idea what to expect from the movie. The movie will rocket from humor, to poignant scenes of grief, back to romance, to unique but dizzying effect.
There are many repeated images throughout the movie. Keep a sharp eye out for Route 60B, pay attention to the music that plays throughout the film, and listen for repeated dialogue. These symbols and themes tie the movie together, add depth, and lend a more lyrical feel. I was particularly struck by the repetition of the words “I’m fine” by Drew. I liked how their use changed throughout the movie and gave us a window into what his character was thinking at the moment.
The strength of “Elizabethtown” lies in the supporting actors. The blizzard of love that meets Drew during his visit to Elizabethtown is created by a superb group of supporting actors that play the Baylor extended family. One of the major themes of the film, relationships between fathers and sons, is played out in amusing and accurate detail between Drew’s cousin, Jesse Baylor (Paul Schneider) and Jesse’s son Samson.
My favorite character was Hollie Baylor, Drew’s mother, played by Susan Sarandon. It feels like her character grows the most over the course of the film, and Sarandon’s performance is superb. The eulogy she delivers for her husband is humorous and poignant, and it makes the movie.
The performances I found most lacking were those of the main characters. While Drew and Claire have their moments in the movie and certainly have some chemistry, their long conversations seem overly clich . It may be a fault of the writing, their performances, or both. Bloom, however, did portray the complexity of his character well when he was not around Dunst, especially considering this is the first movie where audiences have not seen him carry a sword. I found that the script tried to make Claire into an Am lie-like character and didn’t quite succeed, making Dunst’s performance less than the best.
This movie is rare because it is neither a formulaic fast-moving action movie nor a romantic comedy, but at times it drags, moving too slowly for comfort. The movie seems real, but like real life, it has its awkward moments and boring bits. “Elizabethtown” is a film worth seeing, and make sure not to miss Route 60B!