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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin
Director: Cameron Crowe

For most people, a ‘learning curve’ doesn’t involve wasting a billion dollars of somebody else’s dosh by designing a crummy shoe. But wouldn’t you know it, the lost hero of this saga, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), does exactly that. After constructing a pair of trainers that were destined for the scrapheap – setting back his employer (a well-played, subtly enraged Alec Baldwin) a ridiculous amount of money in the process – Drew’s dramatic attempt at his own life is cut short with the news that his dad has just passed away.

Unable to handle everything herself, Drew’s mum (a Susan Sarandon so plastic they might as well have hired a mannequin) sends the troubled lad to middle-of-nowhere Elizabethtown (where dad was at the time) to deal with the burial, the paternal side of the family and any other issues that are likely to melt Drew’s already suicidal heart.

The result is what happens when a slick city-type with dilemmas up his sleeve wanders into predictably rural small-town America, only to discover the potential love of his life, and appreciate the family values he was lacking because of the rat race. This is a character crossing into unknown territory and experiencing all the in-between stuff that life is made of. And life, as you know, is a weird mix of things.

There is as much shallowness as there is depth to this movie. Certain aspects are disappointing (scenes with Susan Sarandon’s undeveloped and mostly glazy 2D character spring to mind); others get the tone of the subject just right (like the phone conversation between two people getting to know each other, who realise that their ‘peak’ happened on the phone when they do meet in person). The difference between the fluff and the genuinely interesting scenes is painfully noticeable, making ELIZABETHTOWN as inconsistent as some of its characters.

Director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky) gives his typically surreal overlay, definitely boosted by well-chosen mood-enhancing music. The soundtrack works wonders! He hands over some terrific characters, like cute, kooky Claire (Kirsten Dunst), their changing views (thought-provoking though not on a life-changing level), and their amusing relationships. He tries, I suppose, to present life…

…and life it might be, but it is still largely a fictional, Hollywood-inspired life, not real life. This is the kind of film that encourages you to live on your own terms, forgetting that your own terms might not fit into the real world. It often feels as though this is little more than a romantic comedy trying to get over the cliche on which it is based.

While the moments of insight, infused with Crowe’s signature style, do make this worth watching, there is a humdrum feel to the whole process. Pleasant it might be, but worth a return to the cinema for a second look it is not.

ELIZABETHTOWN, quoting a word from the film itself, is just ‘fine’.

4 out of 6 stars