Sunday 17 October 2021

Movie Review: Elizabethtown (2005)

A romantic drama-comedy exploring themes of loss, Elizabethtown is a sweet but uneven journey through the complexities of family ties and coping with failure.

In Oregon, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is a superstar shoe designer at the Mercury sportswear company. When his latest design flops, eccentric owner Phil DeVoss (Alec Baldwin) faces a billion dollar loss, and Drew's girlfriend Ellen (Jessica Biel) distances herself from their relationship. Drew considers suicide, but his sister Heather (Judy Greer) calls with news their father Mitch has died suddenly while on a trip to his hometown of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

On the near-empty overnight flight, Drew befriends perky flight attendant Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). In Elizabethtown he meets his father's friends and relatives, and understands the depth of affection towards Mitch, although the Baylors never welcomed Drew's mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon). Over the coming few days Drew and Claire continue to see each, while Hollie causes waves by showing up for the memorial service.

Written, directed, and co-produced by Cameron Crowe, Elizabethtown is an uncoordinated but still engaging mishmash. Humour, drama, romance, culture shock, grief, a travelogue, and familial conflicts take turns setting the tone. The result is awkward, sometimes jarring, but always reasonably watchable despite an overstuffed, often whiny, soundtrack, although the inclusion of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird makes up for a lot of the dross.

The film suffers most trying to define a narrative flow and logical transitions, and never really finds the magic formula. Segments exist in isolation almost as stand-alone ideas. A chunk of time is occupied in developing the romance between Drew and Claire, although their conversations border on obtuse. Frustratingly, Claire is confined to the prototypical perfect potential girlfriend who just happens to land in the protagonist's lap as an emotional saviour in his most desperate hour.

Then another long sequence gives the stage (literally) to Susan Sarandon as Hollie, trying in one night to make up for a lifetime of estrangement from Mitch's family. A final chapter steers (again, literally) into a road trip of southern landmarks. Drew grieving his career fiasco and the loss of his father are supposed to provide an arc, but the dramatic themes are only modestly refined.

The humour is derived from some typical familial quirks, including the uncles, aunts, cousins, and nephews Drew has to get to know in a hurry. Cousin Jesse (Paul Schneider), once in a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, is now raising a very loud kid and is a particular source of laughs. At the hotel, Drew's room is on the same floor as a raucous wedding event, another venue for passable chuckles. 

A running joke is that Elizabethtown is difficult to find on the map. This hometown contains some charm, but is also easy to bypass.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.


  1. I didn't like this film at all and the post-credit ending in the film I think is a real slap in the face of what Orlando Bloom's character was going through. I think the reason the film suffered with critics wasn't that it was similar to a film like Garden State but it also play into a lot of the flaws of who Crowe is as a filmmaker. Yet, I'd rather watch this film again than...Aloha which is one of the worst films I had ever seen in my life. I really think someone needs to get Crowe in a room for an intervention and to get him to stop using music as a crux for the narrative.

    1. I found plenty of good if routine ideas in this one, but few of them were properly pursued.


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