Writer/director Cameron Crowe's ode to Kentucky, “Elizabethtown,” isn't without its problems. Still, I couldn't help but have an emotional attachment to it. While this Crowe film isn't on par with his previous films, “Almost Famous,” “… Say Anything,” and even “Singles,” it is still a solid piece of work.
Orlando Bloom stars as Drew Baylor, an Oregon shoe designer whose latest product flops miserably. Drew is so distraught over the failure that he is on the verge of suicide. But right before he tries to kill himself, his family calls to inform him that his father has died and he has to go to Elizabethtown to make sure his dad's final wishes are fulfilled.
While on the flight, Drew meets an eccentric stewardess named Claire (Kirsten Dunst) who helps him through the difficult task of laying his father to rest and getting his own life back on track.
Crowe has a very talented cast at his disposal and, for the most part, uses them wisely. Bloom, best known for his role in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, is an adequate choice as Drew. Dunst shows some flashes of her acting talent that probably haven't been seen since “The Virgin Suicides.” Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin also have small, but effective performances.
Crowe also does a great job of capturing the small town atmosphere of a Kentucky community, with a nice blend of music and cinematography that really paints a flattering portrait of this state.
Still, “Elizabethtown” isn't without some blemishes. Dunst's character is almost too good to be true and is a huge reminder that “Elizabethtown” feels a lot like last year's indie hit “Garden State.” I also thought that the father's memorial service, which is meant to be poignant and bittersweet, nearly spirals out of control.
But as the film entered its final scenes in which Drew takes his father's remains on a road trip across the country, I found myself moved by the final journey of this father and son. That emotional response made me realize that somewhere along the way, I had taken a vested interest in these characters and their lives.
It actually made me care, and that is probably the greatest compliment you can give to a film like “Elizabethtown.”
DVD dandy of the week
This week's DVD dandy is “Batman Begins” (B), the fifth in the “Batman” series that returns to the Dark Knight's roots, kick-starting a series that was pretty stagnant after the awful “Batman and Robin.”
“Batman Begins” starts with Wayne (Christian Bale) being hand-picked as a protégé of Ducard (Liam Neeson), part of a mysterious group of martial arts warriors known as the League of Shadows. Ducard helps Wayne confront his darkest fears, which include heavy grief over the death of his parents, an incident for which he still feels responsible.
As the training progresses, Wayne is able to overcome his fears to the point of returning to a Gotham much different than the one he left behind. Soon, Wayne realizes that the root of Gotham's problems has been created by a ruthless mobster (Tom Wilkinson) and a psychiatrist who has his own alter ego - the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy).
“Batman Begins” works in large part due to director Christopher Nolan (“Memento” and “Insomnia”), who gives the franchise its darkest tone to date. This is definitely a far cry from the campy '60s television series and the cheesy world that director Joel Schumacher created in the last film.
Bale provides the series with the best Batman thus far, with a dark and conflicted performance that easily matches Nolan's tone.
There is some nice supporting work from Wilkinson, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Only Katie Holmes, as Wayne's childhood friend and idealistic district attorney Rachel Dawes, seems out of place - but only because the Bruce Wayne love interest isn't needed.
One other weakness is the film's rather creeping pace. “Batman Begins” does start to feel a tad long - especially with a running time of 135 minutes - but the movie picks up the pace as it moves along, with a very strong second half.
Some may also find the Scarecrow to be a questionable choice as a villain, especially when you compare Murphy's performance to Jack Nicholson's work as the Joker in the original, but I believe that is what makes this film so enjoyable. For the first time, the Dark Knight is center stage, giving moviegoers a fresh perspective on what appeared to be a dead franchise.
“Batman Begins” is rated PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements and is now available on DVD.
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Cameron Crowe
Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual references
Playing at: Greenwood Mall 10, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)
- Sportswriter/ movie reviewer Micheal Compton is currently day to day with a sprained ankle. But he was a good enough sport to finish this review. Show your appreciation for his gamesmanship and drop him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.