Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn perhaps his most famous parable, Jesus tells the story of a son who leaves his home and father behind to find success in the world on his own terms. When the "prodigal son's" career proves to be a complete failure he decides to return home on his knees, hoping to be given a second chance by a father he has never really taken the time to know.

In Elizabethtown, Cameron Crowe has resurrected this time-worn but deeply profound theme and given it a twist: The father dies before the son can return home.

While the son, Drew (played by Orlando Bloom), never really shows guilt or contrition he does radiate an odd combination of depressed fatalism and whimsy (the latter of which serves as the emotional metaphor for the film).

A over-cheerful and bouncy stewardess, Claire (played by Kirsten Dunst), gushes and manipulates her way (whimsically, of course) into his heart; redeeming him from his self-centered "it's all about me" attitude in the process.

A wonderful ensemble of earthy-quirky characters at first mystify and finally endear themselves to Drew as he discovers honest love and affection among his father's family and friends in their hometown: Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Unlike Jesus' parable, there is no way for Drew to discover his father's love and acceptance face to face. All of that must come second hand from those who knew his father better than he ever had himself. As the unhurried (but never slow) movement of the story unfolds Drew begins to see a depth of character, humor and steadfastness in his mother and others that he has never noticed before....and has most certainly never seen in himself.

The romance between Drew and Claire spirals, joins, leaps and separates much like a man and a woman in a pairs skating performance. In the end, there is a dramatic "lift" which leads to a closing pirhouette. It is, of course, Claire who both "lifts" Drew out of his depression and sweeps him off his feet in the end.

My 16-year old Daughter #3 (who attended the movie with me this evening) rated it an "8" (out of ten). As for myself, even though the whimsy centered on a character who seemed far more saddened by his career failure than by his father's death, the screenplay, dialogue, direction, camera work, editing and soundtrack kept the story moving seamlessly and gracefully along in a tasteful and captivating way.

I did not cry or even feel the desire to cry even though there was a thin layer of emotional sentiment and grief laying close to the surface. I did, however, laugh often and far more loudly than I had expected.

I would rate this movie a 10 for the simple reason that I was entertained without any insult to my intelligence; nor did I feel any inclination to fall asleep even though I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep the night before!

In the end, the movie seems to say that keeping a sense of humor (and whimsy, too, of course) will help anyone overcome saddness and disappointment in life. Especially if that whimsy is accompanied by a caring family and one-special-person who loves you even though you aren't a member of their family! This must be the philosphy of Cameron Crowe who is quite open about admitting that the movie grew out of his experience with the sudden death of his own father several years ago.

The title of this new movie will not bring the casual movie-goer into the theater but I suspect that word of mouth will keep this sweet and weepless serious-romantic-comedy around for more than the usual three weeks.