The latest from director Cameron Crowe ("Almost Famous"), "Elizabethtown" started to have its buzz fade a bit when it was reported that Crowe was making last minute edits of the feature, taking it down closer to the two-hour mark. While the film's eventual box office performance was middling, I found the film to be enjoyable and underrated. There are core flaws here, but the film works around them about as well as it can.
The picture stars Orlando Bloom (core flaw #1, but more on that later) as Drew Baylor, a shoe designer whose latest creation has lost his company an incredible fortune. Not surprisingly, he finds himself booted out and without much hope for the future. Wandering around his lonely apartment, he gets a call from his sister, Heather (the great Judy Greer) that his father has just passed away.
Drew steps out from under the cloud of the day and under a different one as he begins his trek. During the plane ride, he meets cute with quirky flight attendant Claire (Kirsten Dunst), and the two have a faint spark of something between one another. Despite the fact that the two head their own ways after arrival, they will find themselves crossing paths again.
Meanwhile, Drew ends up his trek at the home of extended family, where he's to pick up his father from his Southern relatives. This chunk of the picture is an occasionally funny - but rather familar - culture clash. Meanwhile, Drew's mother is not handling things well and Drew's sister is pressuring him to come home. On top of that, Claire gets a hold of Drew and wants to see him again. There's also the matter of his former girlfriend, Ellen (Jessica Biel).
"Elizabethtown" has an awful lot on its plate, and while it never fully gets into any of its aspects (and has a sort of rambling, messy way of trying to get everything in), it does at least hit a solid double in many moments. While I really think Orlando Bloom is still too bland to carry a movie (see also: "Kingdom of Heaven"), he does have chemistry with Dunst. While she starts off too quirky, once both actors settle in, they have a sweet chemistry with one another. There are some great scenes with the two sharing a moment; it's one of those rare movies where I didn't particularly care about either of these characters on their own, but I liked them together.
Additionally, the scenes with Sarandon work, as the actress really portrays a woman dealing with loss quite well, despite not having a ton of screen time. Greer is wonderful as usual, but a little underused. The picture has a moment where you think it's about to wrap it all up, but it continues onwards for another 15 minutes as Drew takes his fathers ashes on a roadtrip.
Technically, this is a lovely movie, with beautiful cinematography from John Toll and Crowe's usual sublime choice of music, among other highlights. The performances are not consistently great (Bloom is fine playing against someone like Johnny Depp, but he's still too bland to carry a picture - especially one like this), but mostly (Sarandon, Dunst) good. The story itself isn't the problem as much as the telling of it, as there's a little too much and it feels like it could have used another round of editing to sort it all out and get a better flow going. I liked scenes and aspects of the film and, overall, "Elizabethtown" wasn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours in the end. It's certainly not one of Crowe's best, but I still think it deserves a look.
VIDEO: "Elizabethtown" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately, while the presentation didn't look terrible, it didn't look up to expectations, either. Sharpness and detail were just average, as the presentation never appeared crystal clear, instead veering between just crisp enough and mildly soft.
No shimmering appeared, but some minor edge enhancement was spotted at times throughout. On a positive note, the picture at least remained free of print flaws and pixelation. Colors appeared natural and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones looked accurate and natural, as well. Overall, an average presentation.
SOUND: The presentation remained pretty straightforward, as one might expect from a comedy/drama like this one. Dialogue-driven and backed by plenty of music, the majority of the audio comes from the front speakers, with only minor reinforcement from the rears. Audio quality is fine, with crisp, clear dialogue and tunes.
EXTRAS: Two brief "behind-the-scenes" featurettes ("Training Wheels", "Meet the Crew"), a pair of extended scenes, a photo gallery and two trailers for the film.
Final Thoughts: "Elizabethtown" has great moments, a few good performances and it's engaging even in its lesser scenes. Still, some editing to try and get stronger focus and pace. Bloom is also definitely a questionable casting choice. Paramount's DVD edition offers average video quality, fine audio and minimal supplements. Those interested should rent first.
The Film B-