out of Five
Running time: 124
Opens London Film Festival: 20th October
General release: 4th November
Sentimental hogwash - Elizabethtown has an attractive cast and some beautiful photography, but it’s let down by a vacuous central performance, an horrendously mawkish script and a fatal dose of sentimentality.
Writer-director Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical drama Elizabethtown has had its fair share of ups and downs on its way to the big screen. First Ashton Kutcher was fired and summarily replaced by Orlando Bloom, then the film picked up a whispered reputation as a stinker after a couple of festival screenings.
Bloom plays Drew Baylor, an up-and-coming shoe designer who has just lost his company almost a billion dollars, thanks to his design of the aptly-named Spasmotica running shoe. Fired by his boss (Alec Baldwin) and dumped by his girlfriend (Jessica Biel), Drew plots an elaborate suicide attempt, involving a knife attached to an exercise machine.
However, just as he’s about to end it all, Drew receives a phonecall from his tearful mother (Susan Sarandon), telling him that his father has died and asking him to travel to his father’s home town of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in order to retrieve the body.
He finds himself falling for Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a quirky flight attendant he met on the plane to Louisville. (Crowe clearly has a thing for air hostesses, what with Dunst and Zooey Deschanel’s character in Almost Famous).
It pains me to say it, but Kirsten Dunst is by far the worst thing about the film. She’s meant to be kooky, smart and cute but she’s incredibly irritating and badly written to boot – nobody would talk the way she talks or behave the way she behaves and if they did, you’d want to slap them within about five minutes.
As for the usually wooden Bloom, he gives his best screen performance to date, although that isn’t saying much as he still can’t handle anything more demanding than a vacant, slightly bemused look.
Some of the other supporting roles (such as those by Susan Sarandon and Bruce McGill) are more successful, but ultimately they are all let down by a relentlessly mawkish, self-indulgent script that frequently relies on the mix-tape soundtrack to supply the emotions that are missing from the scenes themselves.
In short, Elizabethtown is just about watchable and has a couple of decent moments, but it’s a huge disappointment compared to Almost Famous or Jerry Maguire.