There's a difference, shoe designer Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) believes, between a simple failure and an outright fiasco, and he knows it all too well. This is because his latest shoe design for one of the biggest companies in the world, the Spasmotica, has lost the manufacturers around a billion dollars and Drew has been called in by the boss, Phil (Alec Baldwin), for a heart to heart. He tells him that in a couple of days the news of this disaster will hit the headlines, and Drew leaves feeling more dejected than he ever has before, in spite of his assertions that "I'm fine". He decides there's only one way out...
In the second series of the British comedy show Big Train there was an episode making fun of bad choices in the movie editing room, including one where a couple of editors opt to overlay an emotional scene where a young family visit the grave of the mother with a ludicrously inappropriate Status Quo track - live version, of course. I bring this up because this is how I imagine the editing of Elizabethtown went, with writer and director Cameron Crowe applying his vast record collection to his film regardless of how awkward a fit those songs were.
It's not only the soundtrack that is a problem, as this film never finds its feet in other ways as well. It's like someone trying to pick you up when you're down, only when you realise what their ghastly idea of fun is you come to recognise you'd rather be depressed than put up with them. That can't happen in a romantic comedy, not a traditional Hollywood one, anyway, and so Drew is saved from his own, homemade suicide machine by the perkiness of an air hostess he meets on a plane. Why is he on a plane when hours before he was nearly killing himself?
That's because there has been an unexpected death in the family: his father. Drew makes up his mind to take care of the funeral arrangements and then, only then, do himself in afterwards. But wouldn't you know it, even though he has improbably cost his business a billion (what the fuck were they making these shoes out of? Spun gold?), he finds something to live for and she is that stewardess, Claire (Kirsten Dunst). She gets him talking on that flight to his father's hometown, and marks herself out as an irritant by not allowing him to get to sleep. Yet we're meant to find her kooky ways adorable and just the tonic Drew needs.
Perhaps if Crowe had approached his story, which runs out of inspiration halfway through before rallying with a series of crunching missteps, as a comic fantasia such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, then Elizabethtown might have been more palatable, and there is a cult for this film for whom his movie magic has touched them in the manner he desired. Yet for everyone else the main thought running through their heads is "What were you thinking? Has showbusiness finally driven you insane?" From the insufferably patronising depiction of dad's side of the family as well meaning buffoons to the final funeral scene where mother of Drew Susan Sarandon's excruciating actions can only be explained by deep seated grief, this is horribly misguided. It ends with Drew taking a thuddingly literal journey that merely extends the agony, and leaves most of us musing that sometimes it's OK to be depressed, especially if this is the alternative. Music by Nancy Wilson.
American writer/director of mainstream comedy/drama. Crowe made his name as Rolling Stone magazine's youngest reporter during the 1970s, and scripted the energetic high school romp Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Made his directing debut in 1989 with the romantic comedy Say Anything..., followed by the grunge relationship movie Singles and the Tom Cruise-starrer Jerry Maguire. Almost Famous was Crowe's semi-autobiographical rock n' roll road movie, while Vanilla Sky, his remake of the Spanish Open Your Eyes, was an unusually arty Hollywood thriller. Crowe then went on to the disastrous, quirk-filled romance Elizabethtown, but his fans have faith in his recovery.