With the likes of Jerry Maguire (1996) and Almost Famous (2000) writer/director Cameron Crowe perfected his own brand of whimsical realism. Sadly Elizabethtown is ramshackle by comparison. As a suicidal man saved by love, Orlando Bloom makes a hesitant leading man opposite Kirsten Dunst. But it's the too-cute contrivances on which the story is built that mean it's always teetering on the verge of collapse. Thankfully some good-natured humour and affectionately drawn supporting characters keep it from falling completely into the pits.
The rot sets in early as shoe designer Drew loses his company almost a billion dollars. It's unclear why or how his brainchild has created "a disaster of mythic proportions" so it's difficult to accept that he becomes suicidal as a result, especially in a world where a job is no longer for life. Lucky for Drew, just as he's about to top himself, he gets a call to say his father is dead.
On his way to collect the body, he falls for the inevitably kooky Claire. Dunst brings a melancholy depth to this hackneyed fantasy of the ideal woman, but Bloom carries the weight of the film like a boy in his father's suit. Besides a cleverly written scene that draws the couple into an epic phone conversation, it's the people surrounding Drew who spark the most intrigue. Paul Schneider is underused as his ne'er-do-well cousin, ditto Susan Sarandon playing his mother (trapped in a whirlwind of denial) and Alec Baldwin's CEO, who quietly admits, "I cry a lot lately." If you know what Crowe is capable of, you'll cry too.