ELIZABETHTOWN , Kentucky, may well be a super-nice place to be From and to Go Back To (I do know some swell folks from The Bluegrass State), and to writer-director Cameron Crowe it certainly held affection, as this 2005 comedy (with overtones of drama) amounts to a crush note. Unfortunately, his gooey 123-minute nougat is so artificially sweetened with indigestible additive that it tends to make you gag rather than grin. After a string of hits, Crowe fumbled this one big-time, critics took him down several pegs and audiences didn’t cotton enough to reward it financially. A game cast flails: it gets desperate.
“As somebody once said, there’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-present of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folktale told to others, that makes other people feel more… alive. Because it didn’t happen to them. No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy“—uh, budding screenwriter person, be careful when you write something like that at the start of your movie, signalling how Clever & Deep it’s going to be.
On track to suicide after losing his shoe company nearly a billion dollars, ‘Drew Baylor’ (Orlando Bloom) learns his mercurial father has died back in Kentucky. Mom and Sis want him to retrieve the body. Meeting old friends and assorted relatives, Drew sees things anew, much thanks to getting involved with ‘Claire’ (Kirsten Dunst), a zany flight attendant. In these two aggravating and empty characters, Crowe finds a way to make you hope you won’t have another relationship.
“I’m impossible to forget, but I’m hard to remember.”
A wan Bloom is woefully miscast, with about as much charisma here as waiting room music. Whatever is supposed to be there is somewhere else. Dunst, while cute as ever, is sandbagged by a character so ridiculous that it ended up having a term to describe it, coined by writer Nathan Rabin, the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”. In Rabin’s article, acutely subtitled “The Bataan Death March of Whimsy”, she is “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Now, we really like our Ms. K. Dunst, but Crowe’s conception of this unreal person tests your levels of stomach acid. “I want you to get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that’s happened.” Okay, and I want you to open the emergency door and hurl yourself out at 34,000 feet….
Cost to make was $57,000,000. Stumbling into a disastrous 100th place for the year, earnings flagged at $52,035,000, not anything like healthy. With apologies to Orlando and Kirsten, none of the people in this movie come off as real. They include Susan Sarandon (given a truly horrible speech scene that would embarrass a Kardashian), Bruce McGill, Alec Baldwin, Jessica Biel (wasted), Judy Greer, Paul Schneider, Loudon Wainwright III, Paula Deen (the cookbook dynamo) and one of my favorite character actors, the versatile Gailard Sartain, in his last film credit: he hung it up after this role, enough reason for me to diss this clearly sincere but sorely misguided flick.