FILM REVIEW RATING: JUST ABOUT AVERAGE ...
ELIZABETHTOWN is a film trying to get too many messages across in too short a time. Being a pretty big Cameron Crowe fan (VANILLA SKY, 2001), I came into this movie with high expectations. Some of them were met (music selection, unusual use of camera on characters), but the basic story and how it all came together obviously held too many challenges even in the expert hands of someone like Mr. Crowe.
The story (if you can believe it) is about a shoe designer named Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, 2005) who just lost his employer’s sneaker company nearly a billion dollars. Having dedicated the last eight years of his life to making this shoe-gone-bad, Drew heads to his apartment with suicide on his mind. But before he can kill himself, his phone rings (cliche’?) and it’s his sister telling him that their father just died. Being the eldest child, he is assigned to head to Kentucky, retrieve their father’s body from "the other side of the family" and prepare it for cremation. Drew decides to delay his own death while dealing with his father’s. So he packs up and heads to Kentucky ...but on the flight there he runs into a beautiful (if somewhat confused) stewardess named Claire (Kirsten Dunst, SPIDERMAN 2, 2004) who forms a strange bond with him. They chat awkwardly on the plane and Claire forces information onto Drew about how to get to Elizabethtown without getting lost (and, of course, he DOES get lost).
Eventually — after finding his way to Elizabethtown — Drew has to deal with his father’s side of the family. But they’re accepting, loving, and have a southern charm about them that’s centered around food and family and more food.
Drew calls Claire one night and they talk all night long, then decide to meet up again. A relationship starts to blossom, but each is held back by secrets (Claire tells Drew she has a boyfriend and Drew hasn’t told Claire about his monumental shoe failure.)
Getting involved in a stranger’s wedding, deciding whether or not to cremate Dad, dealing with family on both sides of the U.S., finding love, accepting loss and failure, traveling across the States, refinding love, and a multitude of other items are touched on in the film. But only just.
The movie’s length was obviously an issue. It was only two hours. For a film that’s trying to cover so much ground, more time was needed. The impact of Drew’s father’s death — and Drew’s travels across the U.S. with his father’s ashes — lost its impact on me because of all the other side stories (his mother’s near mental meltdown, his sister having to deal with their mother, coping with out-of-control children by having them watch a video on blowing-up a house, etc.)
On the upside, this is a story about life. It shows everything that goes on between birth and death and love and hate. It’s beautifully edited with an excellent soundtrack. It just needed more time to help completely flesh-out all of the storylines.