AEOS Review: Cameron Crowe and his Elizabethtown (2005)

This post, I’m focusing on director Cameron Crowe, and in particular, his film Elizabethtown, the mediocre-reviewed film considered a flop on the director’s resume.

Similar to the reviews Elizabethtown received, the movie reflects the low points a person must go through in order to learn about a little thing called life. To start this post off, here’s a quote from Crowe himself, published only 3 weeks ago in Vulture magazine regarding the critics’ poor reaction to the film Elizabethtown:

To me, only if something comes from an inauthentic place should you feel vulnerable to the things that anybody might say.

He defends the film insomuch without actually coming across as defensive, a feeling that would have been understandable considering the rough reviews it received.

I’ve read several negative reviews/comments regarding Cameron Crowe and his films since few believe any of his movies have lived up to his most well-known films, Almost Famous (2000) and Say Anything (1989). I have to applaud Crowe for the way in which he has handled the criticism, because as a filmmaker and an artist, he gets it. He goes on in Vulture:

I stand behind it [Elizabethtown] and didn’t feel savaged. It was a little brutal. But I get that people want to express themselves. I express myself, too.

Crowe is one of those filmmakers who makes movies that resonate, even if they don’t connect with a wide audience. Crowe is an autobiographical filmmaker. There aren’t many of those out there–filmmakers who live, write, and then direct a movie that mirrors one’s own life. In a sit-down, unscripted interview with Orlando Bloom, the film’s star, both filmmaker and actor answer questions written in by viewers, and questions each have compiled for one another. Bloom asks Crowe what is the one thing he looks for in an actor, and without hesitation, Crowe replies, “Authenticity.” He goes on to say how he looks for authenticity in a person’s eyes, and that’s how an actor can connect with an audience, because the performance given is not just a performance, but something true and honest that viewers can find relatable.

After watching the film a few times, I started to wonder. . . how the heck did Crowe get Orlando Bloom to sign on to this movie? It’s nothing like Bloom has ever done before, and despite criticism on the Brit’s American accent (which really wasn’t bad!), Bloom sold it. But before he joined, could you imagine Ashton Kutcher filling the role? Well, he was hired until Crowe decided to call up Bloom. It’s amazing to think that James Franco and Chris Evans auditioned for the role too.

When it comes to writing, the old cliche goes, “you should write what you know.” That is what Crowe does, and Elizabethtown is example of that. At the end of the day, Crowe doesn’t care that many people–namely, critics–didn’t like Elizabethtown. And as a big fan of the movie, I don’t care that they didn’t get it either. Yes, there were some cheesy parts, or lines that were a little far out, but guess what I got out of it? A lot of heart, something Cameron Crowe films are filled with.

If you read or watch any interview with Crowe back from 2005, you’ll learn that the movie was a tribute to his late father. The movie, made over a decade after his father passed, was meant to bring to light those moments where you get to know your parents better after they passed because you failed (or in this movie’s case, Drew Baylor failed) to spend that vital time with family before they were gone.

I’ve seen Elizabethtown maybe a dozen or more so times. I always try to put several months between each viewing, because there’s nothing like noticing things you didn’t see the first, second, or eighth viewing, and this time around, it was no different.

Most of my friends that I beg to sit down and watch Elizabethtown with don’t take away what I’ve taken from it. What makes the Elizabethtown stand out to me? Well, the soundtrack, for one. Before Crowe and Nancy Wilson divorced, Wilson collaborated with Crowe on the soundtracks for many of his films. She composed a fitting score for Elizabethtown, combining a lot of string instruments, namely guitar and banjo, to blend with the rich soundtrack including a laundry list of classic artists, from Patty Griffin to Tom Petty to I Nine to Elton John to My Morning Jacket, who posed as the fictional band “Ruckus” in the film. Perhaps my favorite score song of all time is on the score soundtrack, titled “River Road,” by Nancy Wilson. I love how it captures the feeling of the movie and the characters without being boring or just adding sound to the background.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the tone of the movie. There’s a scene where Drew (Orlando Bloom) walks in and is literally bombarded with all these crazy, random southerners who know all about him and his success with his job, while he returns hugs and looks to people he’s meeting for the first time. It’s one of the best movie representations of southern charm and family and the way they express themselves, and Bloom easily portrays a fish out of water in the setting.

I could go on about several different moments that I especially enjoyed from the movie, but I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that Elizabethtown isn’t for everyone. And for those who have already seen the film and disliked it, I’m not going to convince, no matter how great I believe the movie is, or how heartwarming I express Crowe as a filmmaker and writer to be. But for me, Elizabethtown is one of those movies I will watch again and again, because the movie captures little moments in life that I’ve experienced, and it’s a great reminder about what’s important in life–not success, but time spent with the people who matter. About taking life a step future and contemplating who and what is significant to be spending time with.

And this just in . . . 

I tweeted Cameron Crowe about Elizabethtown and got a reply from him! Check it:

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5 thoughts on “AEOS Review: Cameron Crowe and his Elizabethtown (2005)

  1. Unfortunately there’s only one film of Cameron Crowe’s I really liked and that’s the Pearl Jam documentary. That was incredible and seemed pretty personal too. I didn’t even like Almost Famous that much and EVERYONE likes that! However you can’t knock him for making personal films and I’m glad to see he takes the criticism in his stride!

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    • Yeah, I read that he did two documentaries in between the 6 year gap of Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo. I never saw either, but I’ll have to look into that one if you say it’s good! I think Crowe is known for really inserting himself and getting personal in his films. Haha, believe it or not, my sister couldn’t stand Almost Famous, and I thought it was just OK. There were moments that I really liked in it, and other times when I just wasn’t able to connect with it at all. I was a big fan of Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, and even Vanilla Sky though!

      He seems to know how to answer people well, and I’m glad he knows how to accept criticism. I would recommend Jerry Maguire probably more so than the other films. It’s one of my favorites of his (if you haven’t seen it, that is).

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  2. Yay! Another Elizabethtown supporter! You have no idea how happy this post makes me. I’m someone who refers to Elizabethtown as his current favorite movie ‘ever’. I do love it so and I greatly appreciate anyone willing to wade in and defend it. So thank you.

    I love this quote too – “To me, only if something comes from an inauthentic place should you feel vulnerable to the things that anybody might say.” What a great outlook. I respect it.

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    • Ahh! I’m so happy to know there’s another big Elizabethtown fan out there too! Sometimes I think I’m completely alone on how much I love this film. I would definitely consider it my favorite film right now too. It’s probably held that spot for quite a few years, and each time I see it, I wonder if it’s not going to still fill that spot. But it does.

      I have a lot of respect for Cameron Crowe as a filmmaker and in the way he handles himself as a person, especially when dealing with a lot of criticism. That’s partly why I like him so much.

      And wouldn’t you know it, I tweeted him the other day to tell him how much I like Elizabethtown, and he replied! I’ll have to post the picture of it on this post. Thanks for being a fan of this movie too, Nick!

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