There’s no place like ‘Elizabethtown’

Amy Weiss

There’s no place like home for writer-director Cameron Crowe, but as he proves with Elizabethtown, his new film sharing the name of his Kentucky birthplace, going back isn’t always easy.

Crowe’s latest semi-autobiographical flick, which follows a successful young man (Orlando Bloom) as he travels to pick up his dead father’s body, is not seamless. But it still manages to capture the connectedness among people and creates a story both easily relatable and enjoyable to watch.

Drew Baylor (Bloom) is a shoe designer about to confront failure when he learns of his father’s (Tim Devitt) death. His neurotic sister Heather (Judy Greer) and mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon) task Drew to retrieve his father’s body from Elizabethtown, where he had been visiting relatives. On the flight Drew meets sunny stewardess Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst) and during his visit the two can’t seem to stay away from each other. As Drew struggles with his own family’s wishes and his Kentucky relatives’ ideas for his father’s memorial, Claire is a welcome distraction.

Bloom and Dunst deliver admirable performances in roles that are considerably more eccentric than their previous mainstream efforts. The supporting cast of overwhelming, off-beat family members also makes the story compelling and believable.

The 138-minute film flows but feels incomplete. Characters are nicely portrayed, but often thrown at the audience without sufficient development. It sometimes feels as though a scene or a plot detail is missing, and that Crowe compensates by adding haphazard internal monologue voiceovers and blurry flashbacks. Despite a few flaws and jagged edges, Elizabethtown succeeds at taking a story from America’s heartland and focusing on the universal elements of life, happiness and love. What makes the film enjoyable is the unapologetic commonness of its characters and story.

Going home might be tough, but checking out this film is a no-brainer.

– Amy Weiss