| October 16, 2005

Imagine that you just lost your company a billion dollars. Then imagine that you were fired (duh). Then imagine that your dad died. Then imagine this being a heart-warming romantic comedy. Doesn’t seem to fit, does it? Somehow, though, Cameron Crowe pulls it off.
Yes, folks, the preceding “imaginings” do indeed lay the foundation for Crowe’s latest film, Elizabethtown. We follow the story of Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), a sort of foot-wear prodigy that convinced his boss, Phil DeVoss (Alec Baldwin), owner of the wildly successful shoe company, Mercury, to invest in his ultra-unique sneaker design. What’s so unique about it? Well, although we are never explicitly told so, it looks like Drew got his inspiration from a stingray. Yes, a stingray. Apparently because stingrays swim so gracefully in the sea. Problem is, that’s in the water. Most people run on land.
But I digress. The shoe is a failure, and Drew is to blame. He doesn’t even try to deny it. Yet with the way the business works, it’ll be one week before the newspaper stands run the story. And by that time, Drew will be dead. You see, the very night that he is fired from his job, Drew goes home and rigs up his own unique suicide machine. Again, unique because he intends to kill himself via exercise bike. Just as he is about to flip the switch to his death, however, his cell phone begins to ring. And like the rest of us, he can’t just not pick it up. That’s when he gets the news about his dad’s fatal heart attack.
Designated the spokesperson for his family, Drew flies cross-country to Elizabethtown, Kentucky in order to fulfill his father’s last wishes. Elizabethtown was his father’s birthplace, and he just happened to have the heart attack while on a visit there. Before he can even deal with his father’s death, however, Drew must deal with Claire (Kirsten Dunst), the flight attendant on his red-eye flight back East. A native Kentuckian herself, Claire is just super-duper helpful in assisting Drew with directions to the small town. Not only does she write out a little map for him, but also she leaves about three or four numbers that he can reach her at.
Once he arrives in Elizabethtown, Drew is barraged with hugs, kisses and stories by people who to him are complete strangers- and loud ones at that. In one crowded house, they talk over each other, screaming kids and barking dogs as they pull Drew into different rooms, introducing him to other strange relatives, professing all the while how wonderful his father was. After this whirlwind afternoon of meeting his Southern roots, Drew finally retreats to his palatial hotel room (courtesy of his company credit card) and realizes that he is in fact lonely. He calls his mother. He calls his (soon-to-be ex) girlfriend. He even calls Claire. Destiny takes a hand, however, when Claire actually calls him back. The two end up having one of those incredible hours-long conversations where they talk about everything from music to family to work to all of those other inconsequential quirks of life that make it interesting. Come dawn, they even meet to watch the sun rise together. Absolutely romantic in theory, but seeing as they both haven’t slept a wink, they decide that it’s time to call it a night.
From there on out, however, the two begin what can only be called a thoroughly modern romance, one that has its fair share of sudden stops, unexpected bumps and forks in the road. And despite the film’s premise of Drew’s shoe failure and father dying, those are really only the catalysts for what is essentially a love story. What sets Elizabethtown apart from a million other stories like it, however, is that Crowe really is searching to find a couple with which we can all relate. Drew and Claire may have had a really incredible time on the phone, but he still went to the bathroom and she still painted her nails during their romantic interlude. And after spending the night in his hotel room (although she probably didn’t spend the night with him- we don’t know for sure), Claire tries everything save slapping him across the face to wake him up before she leaves. No luck. Without any farewell kisses or sweet goodbyes, she makes the lonely walk of shame to her car the following morning. And when Drew decides to take a road trip cross-country, Claire gives him the most modern of romantic gestures: the mixed CD. All the while, they converse in everyday conversation, which is sometimes funny and effortless, sometimes awkward and confusing. Just like we all experience. The only difference is that Drew and Claire usually have a kick-ass soundtrack playing in the background.
Elizabethtown isn’t really a ground-breaking film, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a simple romantic comedy and that’s about it. But like the last piece of candy in a jar or shiny penny lying on the ground, you take it and then smile to yourself for the small things in life that can make a good day even better.

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