Woof. When Elizabethtown came out in the theaters I avoided it. I just knew that it was something I wouldn’t really enjoy. What I didn’t realize is that this movie isn’t just something that I wouldn’t enjoy, it’s actually painful to watch. Like, hospital pain. Last week a commenter pre-emptively likened this to Spanglish, claiming that it was simply a little bit tone deaf. Incorrect. This movie is so unbearable that it’s almost offensive. It’s condescending at the same time that it’s painfully stupid. Like George Bush. And you know what? The soundtrack isn’t even that good! It’s fine, but it’s like handing someone in Saw a band aid after they dug through their intestines for the key to the bear trap locked around their face. Fuck, this movie makes me reconsider Saw‘s place in the canon. (Just kidding, go to jail, Saw.)
Elizabethtown tells the story of Drew, Orlando Bloom, an up and coming SHOE DESIGNER who has just suffered a colossal failure with his latest design that has resulted in his immediate firing and scapegoating throughout the shoe design industry. Right when he’s about to kill himself, his sister calls with the news that his dad died in Kentucky and Drew needs to not kill himself and go to Kentucky and claim the body. On the way there he meets an airline stewardess played by Kirsten Dunst who gives him her phone number and the rest of the movie is Drew reconnecting with his father’s family in Kentucky and falling in love with Kirsten Dunst. It is one of the worst things I have ever seen.
When a movie attempts to tackle the human truths of our communal experience, love, death, family, adulthood, etc, it’s all about the details. The only way to humanize the retelling of these well tread subjects is to craft something so deeply personal and unique that it ends up embodying the whole. And it’s the details that make this entire thing such a disaster. It starts immediately with our introduction to Drew’s work as a SHOE DESIGNER and continues all the way up until Kirsten Dunst gives him a scrapbook-style “map” for his road trip home, complete with personalized mix CDs to guide his journey, which she supposedly made for him the night before he left?
Nope. Not to mention the fact that it’s never really explained why Drew’s dad was even in Kentucky in the first place, or why he would always go back to visit the extended family but neither Drew, his mother, nor his sister ever visited? And don’t even get me started on Susan Sarandon’s 10 minute long funeral speech AND TAP DANCING ROUTINE.
To give you a sense of the emotional heart of the entire movie, here’s a scene in which we’re shown what a great man Drew’s dad was and why his death deserves a whole movie:
Whoops, Drew’s dad was a Dockers commercial.
It doesn’t necessarily come as any surprise that director Cameron Crowe has no idea how the world works. Almost Famous was semi-biographical about his personal experience of becoming a Rolling Stone writer at the age of 9, or whatever, so naturally he would think that a multi-billion dollar corporation like Nike would just pin the entire disaster of a flawed product on the shoulders of one designer. Except they wouldn’t. Companies have long chains of beaurocratic control. I don’t know why I keep harping on the shoe thing since that was just one stupidly ridiculous detail in two hours of stupidly ridiculous details, but maybe the reason is because WHAT? But he doesn’t get lots of other stuff. Like when Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst both befriend a wedding party at the hotel to the point where the groom says “Drew, I missed you at the rehearsal dinner.” No you didn’t, you unrealistic depiction of a non-existent human being.
Crowe claims that the movie was about his own experience with the death of his father, which is the crudest defense of making something terrible. It pre-empts criticism with forced sympathy, but if he really loved his dad maybe he should have made a better movie about him, because this sucks.
Then there’s the whole Orlando Bloom problem, the problem being apparently this guy is the worst actor in the world. He was great as Legolas, and I would happily watch him slay all the orcs again in the future, but when it comes to talking to other human beings, he should stop it. The same goes for Kirsten Dunst. They didn’t have any chemistry together. Well, that’s not entirely true. They had a lot of chemistry, in the way that you can use your knowledge of chemistry to make POISON and use that POISON to MURDER people’s EYES. Here they are at the tail end of an insufferable all night phone conversation, which is how you know when two people are in
love a boring cliche:
Ugh. The movie is just filled with shit like that. False wisdom and quirky speeches. I’m pretty sure I read that “who are ‘they’?” rant in a pothead’s high school diary. As the movie opens, Drew describes shoes as “what connects us to the Earth.” Where’s my gun? I need to connect it to my face. The worst.
This is in the LEAD everyone. This is the one to beat. It doesn’t get much worse than this, I hope.