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Elizabethtown is actually a real town in Kentucky. I've been there and my dad spends so much time there that I'm surprised he isn't in the movie. Elizabethtown lies almost exactly halfway between Toronto and Baton Rouge so my dad stops off there whenever he is driving down to see me. Now there is Elizabethtown, the movie, which tells the story of a young man (Orlando Bloom) who has just lost his company a billion dollars. He is fired by his boss, Phil (Alec Baldwin), think Phil Knight, and is dumped by his girlfriend (Jessica Biel). Just as Bloom is about to commit suicide, he gets a call from his sister (Judy Greer) to say that his father has died suddenly while visiting his relatives in, you guessed it, Elizabethtown, KY. Bloom's mother (Susan Sarandon) requests that he go to Kentucky and get his father's body and bring it home. While on the plane, Bloom meets a friendly flight attendant (Kirsten Dunst). She is from, you guessed it again, Elizabethtown, KY. Anyway, they hit it off and soon Bloom is spending as much time with her as with his weird relatives. These relatives, whom Bloom only met once before when he was a child, include many cousins (Paul Schneider), aunts and uncles (Bruce McGill, Loudon Wainwright). Much weirdness ensues.
Elizabethtown is a mess of a movie. It should have been better. It is written and directed by Cameron Crowe who also did Jerry Mcguire, Almost Famous, and Vanilla Sky. Ok, the first two were good but maybe he lost it with Vanilla Sky and is still trying to get "it" back. Elizabethtown is partly autobiographical and the idea for it was suggested by Crowe's mother. So obviously he had to do it! But it ended up as a mishmash. It's a good idea and there are some good scenes but by the end it gets a bit stupid. The cast is good but I'm a bit worried about Orlando Bloom. He was great, of course, as Legolas in Lord of the Rings but he was overshadowed by Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean (well who wouldn't be), and then he had trouble carrying his first real starring role, Kingdom of Heaven. Ok, his character in Elizabethtown is supposed to be suicidal, but his level of emoting is very low. This worked perfectly when he was playing an elf but in other roles he's a bit wooden. He's definitely better in a non-epic like Elizabethtown. Kirsten Dunst, on the other hand, has shown in movie after movie from Interview with the Vampire through Spiderman 2, that she is the real thing. Unfortunately, her character in Elizabethtown comes across as a ditzy southern bimbo. I'm not sure whether Crowe or Dunst is responsible. Whatever it is, Dunst doesn't seem very comfortable in this role. The Kentucky relatives, especially Paul Schneider (All the Real Girls) and Bruce McGill (Cinderella Man, Runaway Jury), are very good but the two subplots about Bloom's redneck relatives and about Dunst just don't mesh very well. One highlight is Susan Sarandon who plays Bloom's mother. One would wonder why she took this minor "mother" role but it does have one great scene where she speaks, and tap dances, at the memorial for her husband. She is always great. She might even get an Oscar nomination for that scene. Alec Baldwin is very entertaining as the head of the shoe company but he's only onscreen for a couple of minutes.
The love story subplot of Elizabethtown goes back and forth. Dunst's character is wary of men after some bad experiences and, of course, Bloom has just been dumped and is suicidal. So neither character is willing to make the leap of faith. So the climax of Elizabethtown takes place as Bloom drives home with an urn filled with his father's ashes. Dunst has told him that he should see America and then she shows up just before he leaves with an itinerary complete with every little detail of the route from Kentucky to Oregon including 42 hours of specially selected music burned onto CD's. Dunst produced all this in about 8 hours. Amazing! That was bad enough but the road trip where we watch Bloom visit all these places while the music plays had me ready to walk out of the theatre. It was both cloying and in really bad taste, including a visit to the motel where MLK was shot. I was a little iffy about this movie all along but then they lost me.