“Elizabethtown” stars Orlando Bloom. For a fast-fading portion of the female population, that’s enough to determine the fate of the movie. That the film screams its resemblance to the superior “Garden State” is forgivable. That it’s about as subtle as Food Network host and competent first-time actress Paula Deen bludgeoning you over the head with a Kentucky frying pan is incidental. Even the fact that the whole film amounts to a hip soundtrack wrapped in little American flags and bad editing ceases to matter. Women who love Bloom will see this movie.
And they won’t be disappointed. As Drew Baylor, a brilliant shoe engineer about to lose his company almost a billion dollars, Bloom is in nearly every scene. After being fired and attempting suicide, Drew gets a call telling him his father is dead. On his way to Kentucky to retrieve the body, Drew meets a perky and persistent flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst). Sparks fly (in the script anyway) and moody close-ups of the wistful-looking pair ensue.
Once in Elizabethtown, Ken., Drew meets his father’s extended family. They’re lolloping caricatures of simple, value-driven, red-state America, but the accents sure are charming. Between reconnecting with his roots (a whole angle that never sells given that he grew up in Oregon and speaks with a mangled British accent) and his blossoming love affair with the cute blonde, Drew learns that failure and success mean nothing before the awesome power of life – or little American flags.
Of course, because this is a Cameron Crowe film (“Jerry Maguire”), the central theme also serves as the linchpin for any extended piece of dialogue. “You failed,” says Dunst vapidly, shrugging. It’s a sweet message, but given that “Elizabethtown” is the director’s follow-up to the commercial flop “Almost Famous” and the unmitigated awfulness called “Vanilla Sky,” let’s hope Crowe can take his advice better than he dishes it out.
Which is not to say the film is entirely bad. Nobody in the movies today conjures longing (especially the musically spotlighted variety) quite the way Crowe does. And despite the fact that the film has a good deal of extra fat – including an entire road trip that’s as implausible as it is unnecessary – the movie is effective at conveying the wonder and uncertainty of life. Indeed, watching the film is a very pleasant, if rather empty, exercise in Bloom fulfillment.
But make no mistake: That’s really the reason to watch. Crowe fans are not likely to be impressed, and Dunst gets nowhere near naked. Her female fans should also know that Claire is written as an eccentric accessory to the brooding Bloom, and Dunst does absolutely nothing to give her depth. For his part, Bloom captures the inner turmoil but lacks energy and a convincing speech pattern.
Still, at the end of the day, We-Hate-Kirsten websites will magically materialize at the hands of an estrogen-heavy female audience, and Crowe will go back to helming lucrative Tom Cruise ventures. “Elizabethtown” is far from a bad film. It’s just not a particularly involving one, executed with less subtlety and skill than the talent should have been able to manage. That doesn’t mean it’s not full of Bloom shots: Bloom in a suit, Bloom in a T-shirt – even Bloom shirtless in one scene. Screw the soundtrack and nostalgic Americana imagery. That’s how to sell a film.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars