In the last act of Cameron Crowe's not-so-fab fable Elizabethtown, a character plans out a 42-hour-and-11 minute journey accompanied by a 16-CD soundtrack. At 123 minutes packed with 35 song cues, Elizabethtown feels every bit as long and music-saturated as its anticlimactic road-trip.
Orlando Bloom plays bland protagonist Drew Baylor, who all-but destroys a Nike-sized shoe company with one ill-designed shoe. As he prepares his suicide, big-city Drew gets a call to return home to Elizabethtown, Kentucky: his father Mitch has died. On the way, Drew meets a flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who just happens to be a conveniently unattached male fantasy willing to drop everything to serve a man in need. (To be fair, the original cut—which runs somewhere between twelve and eighteen minutes longer—reportedly fleshes out Claire's character a bit.)
At any length, Elizabethtown can't seem very convincing. In a gamble that doesn't pay off, Crowe makes the dead Mitch a mysterious Everydad. According to flashbacks and the briefest of references, Mitch was remote for years (oh, except for the gleaming flashback montage that returns to Drew), a great guy in recent times (while Drew was busy designing shoes), and conveniently everything to everybody. Though unrealistic, the malleable non-character allows for Crowe to whip up any situation or emotional response he likes, whenever he likes.
As such, Elizabethtown is one giant Mitch fan club—all generations, from Mitch's contemporaneous friends, family, and associates (Bruce McGill, Loudon Wainwright, Paula Deen) to Drew's rocker-also-ran cousin (Paul Schneider) absolutely loved Mitch and drop everything to rally around Drew. Why? We're never really sure, except that the small-town "characters" put Drew's indeterminate feelings in relief and allow Crowe to orchestrate "comic" Capracorn.
To cope with their grief, Drew mopes as his mother (Susan Sarandon) turns frenetic. Though it'll look terrific in her AFI clip reel, Sarandon's big scene is a bit of an embarrassment, capped as it is with a grinning, flat-footed tapdance. The head-scratchingly elaborate memorial-service climax serves as prelude to the prolonged road-trip resolution, an equally unrealistic, don't-look-now descent into self-parody.
To excuse the bizarre plot as a fable is also to willfully ignore Elizabethtown's lack of genuine emotional resonance. Whiff! It's a swing and a miss for Crowe. Let's hope the director (who scored with Jerry Maguire) never again attempts a downwardly mobile yuppie dramedy. As Alec Baldwin's shoe magnate points out, "There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco."
An extensive gallery of photos by Neal Preston is subdivided into ten sections: Behind the Scenes; Mercury; Drew Baylor; Mitch, Holly, Drew and Heather: The Baylors; Claire Colburn; Drew & Claire; Kentucky; The Memorial; The Funeral; and The Road Trip. Rounding out the disc are two Theatrical Trailers for Elizabethtown—"Bad Day" (2:32) and "Drew" (2:57)—and previews for Ferris Bueller's Day Off—The Bueller...Bueller...Edition, Charmed: The Complete Third Season, Yours, Mine & Ours, and Aeon Flux.
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