He Said: ‘Elizabethtown’ an unfortunate detour from ‘Garden State’
If Zach Braff hadn’t beaten him to the punch, Cameron Crowe might have called his new movie “Bluegrass State” instead of “Elizabethtown.”Except for the relative lack of bluegrass on the soundtrack or the fact Kentucky (like Massachusetts and Virginia) is technically a commonwealth, that might have been a better name. It might also highlight how unoriginal “Elizabethtown” often seems, treading the same ground more than a year after “Garden State.”The details are different, but the basic premise is very similar: Fresh off a career failure, golden-boy shoe designer Drew Baylor (golden-boy actor Orlando Bloom) learns his father (not his mother) is dead and must accompany the body home to Elizabethtown, Ky., a suburb of Louisville (not New York City). Instead of Natalie Portman’s damaged Sam, Drew’s chance meeting is with real-life Jersey girl Kirsten Dunst playing sociopathically perky flight attendant Claire Colburn, who, as far as I can tell, lives somewhere in Tennessee. Drew’s array of relatives is pretty weird – maybe not as bizarre as Andrew Largeman’s – plus he’s got a wedding party to mingle with while he’s staying at the Brown Hotel in Louisville (where they invented the Reuben) during the funeral.The substitution act usually works, mostly because Hunter S. Thompson country – where the South collides with the Midwest – seems like such fertile ground for a screenplay. Plus, maybe since Crowe bases the movie on his own trip with his own father’s ashes, Drew’s father (Mitch Baylor) emerges as a character – pretty cool, considering how seldom Tim Devitt, the actor playing his father, shows up.What’s not so cool about Mitch is that even though he’s dead, he upstages a wooden Bloom and an irritating Dunst. Since what makes Crowe’s good movies so satisfying is his ability to convince you his characters are real people and the bizarre conversations they have realistic, there’s something missing from “Elizabethtown.”I wouldn’t count “Elizabethtown” among Crowe’s better movies, and he’s pulled off a few stunners, including one he co-wrote when he was very young (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) and one memoir about being very young (“Almost Famous”). It almost seems appropriate, then, that Braff, a young sitcom actor, bettered ex-prodigy Crowe by about a year – and at least a star and a half.Maybe it’s all in the name, or else all the good stuff in “Elizabethtown” already exists in “Garden State.” “Bluegrass Commonwealth” doesn’t have too much of a ring to it. Then again, “Elizabethtown” doesn’t always, either.
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Some 30 years ago, artist Jack Roberts picked up a ringing phone and quickly grew vocal over a request for hire made by a prominent Parachute couple to paint a historical depiction.