Cameron Crowe, former writer for Rolling Stone magazine, award winning director and true music fan at heart, never fails to light up screens with his romantic and often comedic tales of love found during life’s most unexpected moments. The long awaited and much anticipated “Elizabethtown” was no exception.
“Elizabethtown” is a somewhat autobiographical portrayal of Crowe’s own life trials, including growing up in Kentucky and coping with an estranged relationship with his father.
The film weaves a tale of the bumpy road to life discovery after absolute loss of hope, of newfound love and how it can sometimes save a person, and of the importance of family and togetherness.
The story begins in a shoe factory in Oregon where Drew Baylor, a designer of running shoes played by Orlando Bloom, is faced with total despair having spent his entire life “wrapped up in a shoe.”
His innovative shoes known as “Spasmodicas” are recalled from store shelves across the globe, putting him out of a job and his company one billion dollars in the hole.
After facing a failure of such epic proportions, Drew is left in a deep state of depression and is on the verge of committing suicide when he receives a call from his sister about the death of his father, Mitch.
Drew is then forced to shelve his suicide plans to journey to Elizabethtown, bring his father’s body home for burial and begin funeral arrangements.
En route to Kentucky, he meets Claire Colburn, an airline stewardess, people reader or “student of names” and a so-called “warrior for positivity,” played by Kirsten Dunst. Dunst provides him with a map to Elizabethtown and ultimately helps him rediscover life.
While Bloom’s character struggles to come to terms with his father’s death and his own grief and failures, the people around him seemingly live life to its fullest.
He learns valuable life lessons through budding relationships with his vivacious extended family members and love-interest Claire, all of whom seem to take pleasure in the simple act of living.
In true Crowe fashion, the movie is set to an eclectic range of rock n’ roll classics and potential pop rock hits from several rock legends such as Tom Petty and Elton John as well as up and coming artists Ryan Adams and I-Nine, generating several unforgettable moments.
Viewers will not be able to shake visions of Bloom’s character dancing with one arm raised high in the air in celebration of life from their memories, or of Jesse Baylor, Drew’s cousin played by Paul Schneider, touching his wannabe rock star dreams by performing “Free Bird” with his classic rock tribute band.
Dunst’s character also plans the ultimate road trip for Bloom, complete with maps, pictures, pit stops at well-known tourist attractions and the perfect road tunes.
The movie changes pace after Mitch’s funeral and memorial services, when Bloom’s character hits the road with an urn full of his father’s remnants.
Bloom follows Claire’s map, and scatters his father’s ashes across the mid-south and west at such historic places as the Lorraine hotel, which Dunst tells him was the site of Martin Luther King ‘s last breath.
Crowe’s characters are forever complex and, of course, share his ear for good music.
Bloom gave a convincing portrayal of a man who finds sustained vitality for life in Elizabethtown and in his unforeseen romance with Claire.
And despite the fact that Susan Sarandon played a very small role in “Elizabethtown” as Drew’s mother, she gave a heartrending performance as a woman who emanated the courage and strength to carry on after her husband’s death.
Little is revealed about Dunst’s character, but she seems destined to rescue Drew from the wallows of his own self-loathing from the get-go.
Although I have never been a fan of her work, she shines in her portrayal of Claire, which was oddly similar to Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane in “Almost Famous.” She speaks one witty remark after another, oozes optimism, and sheds new light on success and failure.
Crowe stresses the importance of overcoming one’s failures and encourages his characters and viewers to persevere through life’s setbacks in “Elizabethtown,” as hope instilling music, such as Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out,” continually plays as a backdrop to the movie.
And Mitch’s motto “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else,” seems to be a credo for people everywhere to live by.
Crowe has definitely penned another hit with “Elizabethtown,” which provides proof that immense loss can lead to new-fangled life.
Jessica Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.