Elizabethtown

A rambling, shambling mess inspired by the emotionally devastating failure of Cameron Crowe's VANILLA SKY (2001), this lighthearted meditation on life, death, love and timing contains some genuinely lovely scenes, but they're buried in a shapeless jumble of cutesy-pie vignettes. Hotshot sneaker designer Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) has just been fired and...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A rambling, shambling mess inspired by the emotionally devastating failure of Cameron Crowe's VANILLA SKY (2001), this lighthearted meditation on life, death, love and timing contains some genuinely lovely scenes, but they're buried in a shapeless jumble of cutesy-pie vignettes. Hotshot sneaker designer Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) has just been fired and fed to the wolves over the failure of "Spasmotica," the shoe that was supposed to revolutionize the business but is instead on track to lose his Nike-like employer something on the order of one billion dollars. On the verge of suicide, he gets a desperate call from his sister (Judy Greer): Their father has just died while visiting his brother, Dale (Loudon Wainwright), in Elizabethtown, Ky. Their mother, Holly (Susan Sarandon), is in a dervishlike frenzy of tap-dancing, cooking and auto-repair lessons, and they need Drew to deal with the Southern branch of the family, who always regarded Holly as the interloper who took their Mitch away. So Drew postpones his final exit and heads south, meeting relentlessly perky stewardess Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst) on the flight down. As Drew deals with eccentric relatives who think he's a big success, the noisy three-day wedding celebration going on in every corner of his hotel and the terror of his impending humiliation when Spasmotica's failure becomes public, he and Claire flirt, first over the phone and then in person. What's most confounding about this film, which was trimmed for theatrical release to 123 minutes (down from the 136-minute version that received a famously bad reception at the Toronto Film Festival), is that it falls down in all the areas that are traditionally Crowe's strengths. The oft-thwarted romance feels forced and artificial: Dunst brings every ounce of charm she can muster to Claire, but her best efforts can't turn a collection of twee quirks into a character, while Bloom is best at playing numb. The supporting characters are one-note stereotypes — including kitchen magician Aunt Dora (cooking-show host Paula Deen), rascally older cousin Bill Banyon (Bruce McGill) and cousin Jessie (Paul Schneider), an addled single father and would-be Southern rocker — though Alec Baldwin's turn as Drew's boss (clearly based on Nike CEO Phil Knight), is an amusing one. The pop-music soundtrack is obvious and intrusive, and the pacing is off. By the time Drew starts his revelatory climactic road trip, it feels as though the film should have been over ages ago.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: A rambling, shambling mess inspired by the emotionally devastating failure of Cameron Crowe's VANILLA SKY (2001), this lighthearted meditation on life, death, love and timing contains some genuinely lovely scenes, but they're buried in a shapeless jumble o… (more)

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