This romantic comedy from Cameron Crowe (Vanilla Sky) has been whittled down a bit for its theatrical release and has a Norman Rockwell painterly approach to it that almost lifts it above its flaws.
Elizabethtown is a small town in Kentucky and stars Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven) and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man 2). Crowe's screenplay invites comparison to Zach Braff's Garden State in the examination of personal reflection on finding success and being true to one's roots.
The story might be like icons Frank Capra and Billy Wilder would have put on the silver screen. The idea of going home is an important one for Crowe, once a Rolling Stone contributing writer, who probably uses Bloom's Drew Baylor as a surrogate for himself.
Baylor has become an unlikely business prodigy in the field of shoe design and his life turns downward as his new supershoe high-tech project becomes disastrous for his company Mercury. Alec Baldwin plays the corporate mogul.
Crowe highlights Drew's shock with an early witty moment as the film embraces failure and suffering. Drew is on his way home for a family funeral. Later, after an intense meltdown, Dunst turns up to be a welcome luminous presence as airline stewardess Claire Colburn, similar but not nearly as good as what Kate Hudson did for Almost Famous as Penny Lane.
Claire's redemptive girlfriend for Drew contrasts with Susan Sarandon (Alfie) ideal as his mother. Her best moment comes at the memorial service. Similar to the main plot thread in the low-budget Junebug, Drew undergoes a rejuvenation in part due to eccentric, amiably neighbors, with decent support by the likes of Bruce McGill (Cinderella Man) and cooking show host Paula Deen.
Elizabethtown is ambitious and sprawling, but may not connect in large part because Bloom doesn't carry the same appeal and charm he's brought more to the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean. Though Dunst commands more of a viewer's attention, she can't make Claire savvy enough to make the blooming romance with Drew vital, even with her allure as a convincing stewardess.
Maybe Crowe, who has a flair for "finding America", given his music background, put too much of an albatross on Bloom from the premise of a monumental plummeting. Yet, there is a maturity that rises to the surface, and the theatrical approach almost counters the capriciousness that carries a burden with it.
Besides the winsome smile of Dunst, Crowe's visual and internal illumination on the heartland has a solid score, bolstered by the likes of Elton John and Tom Petty, and a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird."