‘Elizabethtown’ doesn’t live up to Crowe’s previous triumphs

Andrew Hampp

Orlando Bloom is better when he doesn’t speak. Judging by this scene, Kirsten Dunst seems to agree.

Credit: Ben Breier



Starring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon,Judy Greer, Alec Baldwin,

Jessica Biel, Loudon Wainwright III

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe

Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Rated PG-13 for language and sexual references

Stater Rating (out of four): **


Cameron Crowe is the man responsible for some of cinema’s most memorable musical moments.

John Cusack holding up the boombox that plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything-

The tour bus sing-along to “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous.

So what does Elizabethtown, his sixth and most music-packed film to date, have to add to his legacy as one of the big screen’s best musical mood-setters?

A tap dance to “Moon River,” a song that already factored heavily into the far-superior Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The tepid tap dance is one of several major let-downs in Elizabethtown, an occasionally charming but ultimately underwhelming effort from Crowe.

Orlando Bloom stars in his first-ever contemporary role here, and it shows. Sure, Bloom’s expressive face can emote the hell out of scenes in which his character, Drew Baylor, is dumped, fired from his shoe salesman job or faced with the sudden death of his father.

But though his period training in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean and Kingdom of Heaven helped him master the art of killer word-free acting, let the man speak, and it’s all downhill from there.

Bloom is simply ill-suited for falling in love on-screen with Kirsten Dunst, who turns up her trademark, borderline-annoying spunk to 11 as a flight attendant named Claire.

It doesn’t help that Crowe’s screenplay is lacking in the natural rhythm and timelessness of his previous films. Considering Drew and Claire fall in love primarily through conversation, one would expect the dialogue to be much stronger than it is.

The couple meet by chance on Drew’s underpopulated flight home to Elizabethtown, Ky. Claire strikes up a conversation by chance with the sleep-deprived Drew, who eventually opens up to the intriguing stewardess and ends up chatting with her for the remainder of the flight.

Once they touch down, Drew and Claire hesitantly say their goodbyes in an airport terminal, complete with Crowe-quality quirks like Claire’s clicking of an imaginary camera to photograph a moment in her memory and Drew’s emphasis on the importance of parting glances, or “last looks,” as he calls them.

But Elizabethtown is mostly lacking nuances such as these in many of its key scenes, and it often suffers as a result. It’s as if some transitional scenes are missing, leaving the audience with only fragments of a whirlwind romance that only half-makes sense.

The love affair develops over a three-day period, during which time Drew connects heavily with Claire – who surprises him by showing up in Elizabethtown – and reconnects with his Kentucky family. Few of his relatives have seen him in decades, save for his mom (Susan Sarandon) and sister (Judy Greer.)

After the funeral, Drew decides to drive out to the West Coast and scatter his father’s ashes along the way. But not before Claire makes him a road map so detailed she couldn’t have possibly found time to make it in the three days she’s known him, in between all the time they’ve spent together already.

Plot implausibility’s aside, it’s during Drew’s epic road trip that Elizabethtown finally hits its stride. Claire burns several CDs with scene-perfect songs for Drew’s long ride home.

For the better part of a half hour, scenes, cities and songs change in seamless succession, leading up to a satisfying if predictable finale.

Crowe may achieve a minor triumph in paying homage to his hometown of Elizabethtown as well as all things Americana, but he’ll certainly try your patience a few times along the way.

Contact features editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].