“Elizabethtown” falls short of expectations

Colleen Curry

Cameron Crowe’s new film “Elizabethtown” opened Friday to high expectations. A director of such hits as “Say Anything,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “Almost Famous,” Crowe has earned himself an almost-cult following for his musically driven, often sentimental motion pictures. “Elizabethtown” tried to follow in suit with touching moments and emotional material, but disappointed greatly in its deliverance.

A meandering storyline that spans four days in the life of Drew, a 20-something shoe-designing prodigy, the movie documents Drew’s struggles with failure, death, love, and hope. Not used to life’s hard knocks, Drew, played by Orlando Bloom, is floored when he is fired for losing $1 billion in revenue, is dumped by his girlfriend, and is told of his father’s death all on the same day. A near-suicidal Drew jumps on a plane, and the movie takes off into another chapter, leaving the depression of the first half-hour far behind. Here Drew meets Claire, the troubled-but-hopeful leading lady played by Kirsten Dunst. As the two fall helplessly in love, the movie plods through light comedy and lighter drama of family life in the South, mixing love and angst for an unsteady hour that characterizes the confusing middle of the movie.

Finally, what seems to be closure comes at the memorial service for Drew’s father, where the movie then leaps into its third, and possibly best, chapter, Drew’s solitary roadtrip across the country. Here, Crowe’s handiwork shows through in capturing the connection of people through places and music in a beautifully done, if misplaced, sequence that caps off the movie. The lesson learned: failures don’t matter, people do. Death is inevitable, but it is love and life and how much you love while you’re alive that makes you a success.

Though the sentiment and the music make the movie, surprising letdowns in slow, seemingly pointless scenes lead to a rambling pace that make the movie ache for a stronger storyline. There is no clear-cut plot, and the jumping from one storyline to another seems disjointed, accidental, and sloppy.

Bloom fails in carrying the movie, with a lack of emotion, honesty or general awareness which plague the actor’s first attempt at romantic-comedy, and may send him back to the ranks of action hero for good.

The movie is saved, for the most part, by a solid performance by Dunst, who sparkles with earnest emotion and vulnerability. As a troubled yet overly-friendly flight attendant, Dunst pulls of a poorly-written character surprisingly well. Susan Sarandon tries to steal the show as Drew’s grieving mother, but her scenes are so disjointed and frantic, its not quite clear who she is supposed to be. Though we never find out who these characters really are, their actors do just enough to allow us to nearly forgive and forget their dimensionless motives.

Like many of Crowe’s movies, the film tries hard to portray the importance of relationships, love, and life. Mixing good music, cinematography, and actors should have equaled major success for the writer/director, but the halting storyline and weak characters leave us longing for something more. Crowe just didn’t deliver in this one.

Overall, fans of “Almost Famous” and “Say Anything” will find something to love about “Elizabethtown,” even if it is only the soundtrack. The touching moments and emotionally-driven acting of some might save the weak storyline a bit, but anyone with the attention span of an eight-year-old is warned to stay away. The soundtrack, however, now that might be a good buy.