ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Friday, October 14, 2005

Elizabethtown

No real spoilers, even though I'm going to tear it apart a little, and kick it when it's down.

I really wanted to love this movie. I've been looking forward to it for months. "Almost Famous" is one of my favorite movies. The trailers look great.

And there are some things that really work well here. The romance between Orlando and Kirsten is actually sweet, and different, and very likable, and though I don't always like Kirsten, I liked her here. Elizabethtown almost serves as an example of a movie in which the characters are so appealing that the plot doesn't matter as much, especially when there's so much good music floating around in it.

Almost.

But so much here doesn't work at all. To speak in the most basic, non-spoiler/first 10 minutes generalities, they botched Orlando's character. Here's a guy who in the first few scenes, loses everything, and then in the course of the script comes to terms with this.

But because he has lost everything, he has nothing more to lose. So he doesn't take a risk in the whole script. He's an amazingly passive character, who has no real choices to make. And the one he does sort of have to make, the question of what to do with his father's body, he doesn't really make either. It would have been completely different if he were still a successful workaholic, working on a big project, who suddenly had his father's death derailing his life; that's a story. Here, not so much.

But dammit, the romantic stuff is all great, there are some good throwaway gags, and I thought the last 15 minutes work really, really well. But the main storyline it is all hung on is just completely underdeveloped, and it leaves a big black hole in a lot of the screenplay; we just aren't made to care at all about a lot of the family stuff, because so many of the relationships are so completely unexplored, and so much of the family history isn't explained at all. Maybe this was lost in the 18 minutes Crowe cut out after the Toronto film festival; I don't know (I'm going to read the original script this week, and see what I see). But too much of the key story dynamics are just vague, and ultimately it just makes a lot of this slow and unmoving.

Still, I liked the damn thing more than it deserves. A lot of it is charming. If you're a Crowe fan, it's probably worth seeing.

But there's a great movie here, that at the end of the day he just didn't find, and sometimes those movies are the most frustrating of all.

6 Comments:

At 8:03 AM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

*Spoilers*

I left the movie theater perplexed after Elizabethtown. I felt like I had just watch 3 or 4 half-movies.

I did like the road trip at the end and wish he would have worked backwards from that. I like your idea of him still being employed when his father dies. Then at towards the end, for example, if he chose to blow off a do-or-get-fired project to go on the road trip, he would have risked something real and made an active choice that altered the direction of his life.

How does a mess like this happen? Doesn't a director like Cameron Crowe have buddies that read his stuff before he filsm and say, "Hey, you might have problem with the way this starts, you might have a problem with this blankly realized character..." - ?

And the tap dancing scene. Ugh. But I did like Freebird at the memorial service. It is sort of a good song for a funeral.

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

*Spoilers*

I think the road trip at the end could have easily been an entire movie, and apparently in the longer cut of the movie, this was the section that was a lot longer. Roger Ebert also makes the point that it is kind of weird that Kirsten Dunst is planning this whole trip out for him, basically telling him where to go and what to feel and what to listen to (an ironic metaphor for filmmaking itself?) though it works in the movie because the road trip is so cool.

Here were some huge story questions I had. How long was his father in Kentucky, and why? What was the status of his parents' marriage? Was the idea supposed to be maybe that Susan Sarandon had been such a stick-in-the-mud that all the stuff she does pays off something? Because it is only in the movie in the vaguest terms. We see flashbacks of Orlando and his dad when Orlando was a little boy, but we get abolutely no idea of their relationship in the last 20 years, or what might have been unresolved between them, other than Orlando working too much (though why he worked so much, and what was wrong with the sneaker, and why no one in Elizabethtown realizes that something is wrong with the sneaker, is also unclear).

Even when he finally makes a choice, about not cremating his father, it's too late, so it's essentially pointless. By the end, what is he risking to go off with Kirsten Dunst? He has nothing to go back to (though apparently the last cut finished things by having the sneaker turn out to actually be a hit, because it whistles when you walk in it. Yeah, I know. It didn't make any sense to Roger Ebert either).

I did laugh, loud, at the guy on the video blowing up the house, though. And the scene with Chuck in the bathrobes is priceless. I just wish Crowe could have come up with a lot of similar stuff for the family storyline, and not half-assed it so much.

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

*A few more spoilers*

I agree about the unanswered questions. I think Garden State was the same sort of story, and worked better on the story level. About a guy on the West Coast who has to go east to deal with a parental death and encounter the wacky family/milieu left behind and in doing so, find himself (and a girl too).

I also want to say why it wasn't a total disaster for me... I thought it was funny. There were a lot of great moments, down to the poster for that wedding. What was it? "Chuck and Cindy, the Wedding." The little kid screaming all of the time was hysterical, especially when he started screaming while his father was singing. Most of the side characters were (too) developed. As a director, he elicits great comic timing from the actors. Even though I felt the mother character's euology was out of place and not needed, the way Susan Sarandon delivered it was great.

So, Elizabethtown was much easier to sit through than a truly bad movie, like the Avengers, or Jack. I will give him that!

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I like Elizabethtown, and it's not a fiasco. I'll probably even watch it/buy it on DVD, just to check out all the inevitable extra footage.

But, you know. When you go to a truly bad movie, shame on you. But when you go to a movie like Elizabethtown, that falls short when it could have been great, it's just a little more sad.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger Julie O. said...

Just got back from seeing it. Wish I'd loved it more.

Probably loved it more than you did, because I'd already read the script and mentally transposed it over the finished film.

For some of the best Moments in the script, Crowe cut the "pre-Moment" beats out of the film, so those Moments didn't get to breathe. Or maybe those were beats I added, myself, while reading. Maybe Crowe never intended to let his Moments play as they did on my mental screen, I dunno.

The overnight phone conversation, for instance. It played SO beautifully in my head. It was too MTV on film, though, IMO. Cut too quickly with no time to set up where we are and who we're with... superb lines of dialogue registering 2-3 mini-slugged scenelets later.

I'm interested what you think after reading the script, Scott.

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger endy smith said...

I don't hear about this movie, but after you posts and comments read, I decided to watch it. research paper writing service can make your posts and comments more luxury and deep-meaning.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home