Elizabethtown (Or: I Am Not Resigned to the Shutting Away of Loving Hearts in the Hard Ground. Or: In Defense of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl)

Posted: August 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

(This 2005 film is on Netflix streaming again. For now.)

If there’s one film that I feel has been unnecessarily trashed (or, rather, just tossed aside like a day-old biscuit), it’s Elizabethtown.


First of all: who tosses out day-old biscuits? Yeah, they’re not as great the next day. I know everyone wants a FRESH biscuit. But day old biscuits are still edible, right? Just heat them up in the oven, slap some jelly on them. You’re set. This does not apply to whomp biscuits (you know…Pillsbury) because those are NOT real biscuits. And this was not a metaphor for aging at all.


Elizabethtown is the perfect movie to watch on Father’s Day (even though it’s not Father’s Day: I realize this), especially if you’re not around to celebrate the holiday with your dad. It will make you appreciate him even more. If your father has passed, it may make you a little sad. I mean, it’s a Cameron Crowe movie. You will FEEL SOMETHING, DAMMIT.

In Elizabethtown, Drew Baylor (played by a perfectly understated Orlando Bloom–for once he is not surrounded by pirates or evil wizards) is a shoe designer for a Nike-esque company, who has succeeded in designing a shoe who loses $1 billion for the company. We suspend reality here for a bit, as Drew is singularly blamed for an incident that (I feel) would not normally be blamed solely on the designer; or rather, if it was a bad design, why wasn’t it caught before ten gazillion shoes were manufactured? At any rate, Drew is instantly suicidal and goes back to his apartment to do himself in (with a contraption that ultimately fails! this guy is NOT the world’s greatest designer).

His effort fails when his sister (played by Judy Greer, who I just love. Have you read her book, I Don’t Know Where You Know Me From? you should at least buy the audiobook, if you are taking an eight hour trip through the mountains with no one around except the lonely, sad bears and crazy mountain men playing banjos and…oh, right, I forgot about the insane maniacs from Ohio who just HAVE to skid around you to make the exit for the next Cracker Barrel) calls to tell him that his father has died while visiting relatives in Kentucky, and he must go retrieve his father’s remains from the clutches of his evil Southern family.

The next part is the most reviled by the Manic Pixie Dream Girl critics–Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a flight attendant on Drew’s flight to Louisville, slides into the picture, all sparkles and fairy dust. But I must protest, Manic Pixie Dream Girl critics! I think it is utterly unfair of you to reduce this character to a certain type. It is very clear that you were just trying to be clever and that you were NOT paying attention to the movie after a certain point, because you thought up the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and were so excited that you had to leave the theater and not watch the rest of the movie. (Okay, I’m overreacting. I’m sure the critic stayed for the whole thing.) Claire is a supporting character, yes; she is a romantic interest, yes; she does have certain quirky qualities and characteristics, yes. But she is a central part of the film! True to her flight attendant, “substitute people” ways, she directs the traffic of Drew’s crazy, unpredictable family around him. She is there to remind him that there is life after failure–I mean, someone has to be the voice of reason, a megaphone of hope.  This is how people support each other (well, in movies at least). If the roles were gender reversed, would anyone call Drew a Manic Pixie Dream Boy? Nope! They would call him a thoughtfully considered, tenderly drawn, Lloyd Dobler-ish type hero.

At any point, the movie then focuses on the funeral and all of the accompanying family dynamics. Drew’s immediate family eventually agrees to travel to the Dirty South, and Drew eventually asserts himself with the Kentucky members of the family, who want him to be buried in Kentucky and are basically pushing Drew and his poor family around. There is an elaborate memorial service, which is one of the funniest funeral scenes I’ve seen in a long time, and Drew eventually faces his own grief, as he returns home and prepares to live a life in the shadow of failure.

Or does he? (ha.)

Let me admit, I love Cameron Crowe’s films, especially Say Anything, Almost Famous, and Vanilla Sky (and this one, too). Of all of the big budget, commercial directors out there, I feel he is one of the filmmakers with the most soul. Elizabethtown is easy to sit through, even through multiple screenings, and although it occasionally misses the mark here and there, it is a worthwhile watch. It will definitely make you consider your relationship with your own father, and realize that even through gaps in time, communication, and understanding, it is time to think about who your father is, as a person–and what he has meant to your life.

Then: immediately watch Daddy Daycare.


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