|Elizabethtown has all of the elements of a great Cameron Crowe movie, but none of the Cameron Crowe vision that made Almost Famous work. It's mostly a series of sweet moments, each capped with the right song at the right time; in fact, the soundtrack is the real star of the movie, and the right song is all there is to piece together a film that is much less than the sum of its parts.
From the start of Elizabethtown, big contrasts are evoked: death and life, success and failure are side by side, so we're told. When the movie starts, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is experiencing failure and death in spades: the shoe he spent eight years designing for Mercury (a thinly-veiled copy of Nike) has been recalled, costing his company $972 million dollars. On the verge of a suicide attempt, he learns his father has died, and Drew flies to Kentucky to retrieve the body to Oregon for cremation. On the red-eye to Louisville he meets Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst), a perky flight att'ndant with a charming flair for cute lines ("I'm impossible to forget, but I'm hard to remember," she chirps). Once in Elizabethtown, Drew tries to plan a memorial while dealing with relatives who have their own agenda in addition to his manic family back in Oregon, all while facing the reality that in a few days he'll be known nationally as one of his industry's most legendary failures. Yet still he manages to connect with Claire on an all-night cell phone conversation--complete with the requisite watching of the sunrise--and to strike up a furtive romance.
So we now have death and life side by side. But despite these dramatic shifts, what sets up to be a roller coaster ride of a film flattens out to a milquetoast middle ground with no real life of its own. Drew Baylor has suffered two tragic personal losses in the course of one day, but you wouldn't know it from Bloom's lethargic performance. There's not much to Claire either. Her whole character is made up mostly of cutesy quotable lines and mysterious little smirks. In the end, Elizabethtown is a film that doesn't know what it wants to be, and unfortunately there's no payoff, other than a few memorable lines and a great soundtrack. --Dan Vancini