After a shoe he designed bombs commercially, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is fired for losing the company nearly one billion dollars. He considers suicide, but is interrupted by a tearful phone call from his sister informing him that their father has died while visiting family in Kentucky. Drew agrees to go to Kentucky to retrieve the body.
On the flight to Elizabethtown, Drew meets Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a chatty but kind flight attendant. They speak briefly and when the flight ends, she gives him directions on how to make it to his destination, and on the map, includes her phone number in case he needs to talk. Drew eventually makes it to Elizabethtown, where he is thrown into chaos as family he hasn’t seen since he was a little boy begin to surround him to talk about his father and inquire about the burial – none of whom will accept Drew’s mother’s decision to cremate her late husband. They all want Mitch to be buried in Elizabethtown and view Drew’s mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon) as the reason Mitch moved so far away.
Still struggling with his personal failures, and now the death of his father, Drew calls Claire when no one else is available and the two hit it off over the phone. While a romance with Claire begins to bloom, Drew does his best to juggle funeral arrangements, his overbearing family, mourning sister, and neurotic mother while sorting out his own suicidal thoughts.
I had a difficult time trying to figure out what Elizabethtown was supposed to be. A family drama? A romantic comedy? A dark look into familial resentments and depression? It felt like several movies merged clumsily together with no real focus. Dunst plays the quirky free-spirit with gusto, but her performance can’t carry all of the other issues that bog down this movie. I generally like Orlando Bloom, but he felt miscast here. There were moments of really great acting on his part, but then I would find myself cringing through his other scenes.
I also love large, kooky families in movies, but the characters in Elizabethtown felt underdeveloped, their history hinted at, but never fully brought to life. It’s always difficult for me to feel the loss that these characters go through when I’m simply told how wonderful the deceased was, but never shown. There are very brief flashbacks where Drew is with his dad as a child, but they do nothing to invoke any sort of grief inside of me.
This may be why the ending felt so out of place and contrived. Drew takes a road trip back home to California, taking the route given to him by Claire, which will ultimately take him home, or to her… it’s Drew’s choice. It’s a very romantic idea, and one I would have loved had it belonged in any other movie. I just didn’t get the significance of it in Elizabethtown.
There was no cohesion whatsoever to this movie. No real plot, no engaging characters, no focus. I was just left feeling disappointed and confused. It’s a shame because I love Cameron Crowe and I felt like Elizabethtown had a really wonderful movie somewhere inside of it.