Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Elizabethtown

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual references

Reviewed by: Jonathan Wooten
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
2 hr. 18 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
October 14, 2005 (wide)
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
  • Making a lot of money and driving a nice car doesn’t mean you are necessarily a successful person in God’s eyes.

    How good is good enough? Answer

  • Enjoy every moment, stop and smell the roses, etc. …because our time on Earth is limited.

  • Get to know your family, they are a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

  • If God knows I am HURTING, why doesn’t He help me? Answer

  • Does God feel our pain? Answer

  • Suicide, what does the Bible say? Answer

  • Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

  • How can I deal with temptations? Answer

  • How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

  • What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Relationship information
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Featuring: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Biel
Director: Cameron Crowe
Producer: Tom Cruise
Donald J Lee Jr
Paula Wagner
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “After causing the Oregon shoe company he works for to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, Drew Baylor (Bloom) is fired for his mistake, and promptly also dumped by his girlfriend, Ellen (Biel). On the verge of suicide, Drew is oddly given a new purpose in life when he is brought back to his family’s small Kentucky hometown of Elizabethtown following the death of his father, Mitch, as it falls to him to make sure that his dying wishes are fulfilled. On the way home, Drew meets a flight attendant, Claire Colburn (Dunst), with whom he falls in love, in a romance that helps his life get back on track.”

Even on an off day Cameron Crowe is capable of creating sincere and touching moments. Whether it’s John Cusack hoisting a boom box over his head in “Say Anything” or Kate Hudson dancing in an empty concert hall in Almost Famous he just knows how to burn an image into your mind. Delivering a movie that is cohesive over the course of two hours has not always been his strength though and this is the main problem with “Elizabethtown”.

Here he uses the premise of a young man (Orlando Bloom) returning to his hometown for his father’s funeral (comparisons to 04’s “Garden State” are unavoidable). This setup works because it forces the lead to reflect. Throw in the colorful kooky characters found in Elizabethtown, KY and you have the potential for a good film.

The problems start with the casting of Bloom. He’s a swell guy and easy on the eyes (um, so I’m told), but he just lacks the charisma necessary to carry a character-driven film. He and Kirsten Dunst do make a good on screen couple though, and this is a genuinely sweet love story.

Also present are some positive spiritual themes. Although the couple does spend the night together in a hotel room, the relationship is not consummated (Dunst’s character later remarks that “the kissing was better than a lot of the sex I’ve had”). Also, after failing in the business world Bloom’s character must ponder the true definition of success.

This is good stuff, but unfortunately the story never really gels. The fact that some 20-30 minutes have been cut since its festival run earlier this year might explain this. This director is far from a hack though, and there is a great film in here somewhere. Bloom’s road trip through America’s heartland in particular is quite moving. Crowe is at the top of his game as he melds images of landmarks such as the memorial in Oklahoma City with his trademark perfect soundtrack. Hopefully, like with “Almost Famous”, we will eventually be blessed with a different director’s cut.

Possible objectionable content: Moderate profanity, one instance of graphic sexual dialog.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Cameron CroweSee our interview with writer/director Cameron Crowe


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—The pain of loss and the joy of living. This is pretty much the crux of “Elizabethtown”, a surprisingly poignant romantic comedy centered around morbid things. I’ve been there. The phone call late at night. The funeral arrangements. Awkward conversation with people you’ve never met or haven’t seen in fifteen years. If you have ever experienced loss, you’re going to feel for Drew and his family.

There is a humorous side to the film and its mildly morbid stance on death, but there are also some lingering gems of truth. The plot seems a little slow after Drew reaches family territory, but picks up when Claire returns to the picture and becomes a very touching little statement about learning to cope with loss, whether it’s the death of a loved one or a massive failure. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you feeling thoughtful as you exit the theatre.

What really works here are the characters. Drew is something of a quirky guy, but it’s Claire that deserves all the credit for making his life wonderful. I would love to be a girl like her, to search out ways in which to enrich the lives of others. She genuinely cares about people, and their relationship is one that is more about understanding and sweetness than physical attraction. I think pretty much anyone can identify with the characters on some level, whether through loss or a family reunion, complete with screaming kids and bear hugs from uncles you don’t remember. For the writer/director, it was a personal journey. It’s also a personal journey for the audience.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3½
Charity Bishop, age 22
Positive—I took my fifteen year old daughter to see “Elizabethtown”… We both enjoyed the film immensely and found it to have an overall positive message about life, love, and discovering what’s truly important in life.

I thought Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst carried the film very well, and I would recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Kristine McGuire, age 40
Positive—This movie is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. I put this movie in thinking it was a slow going love story, but it was not like that. Yes there are some parts that I didn’t like. Like the swearing. And two times it sounded like a swear word, but it was not. Like Mitch was the sons dad. And trucker was the name of the band. Which was not very good. Also they did use the f-word one time. So yeah there are some swear words, but not all though out the whole movie. There was no nudity except the girl was shown in the bath tube with bubbles on her. For the most part this movie was a fun movie to watch and I cried not because it was said, but because it was sooooooooo funny.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Crystal Crouch, age 22 (USA)
Positive—Those who have suffered a loss and are coping with grief and family issues will be able to relate well to this movie. Those who haven’t had that life experience simply won’t. I laughed and cried and was very glad I saw the film. It actually brought me some healing.

While Bloom and Dunst are good together, to me they are not the main point of the plot. Relationships—family and otherwise—are the important healing message herein, as well as gaining an understanding of the variety of ways people can deal with their grief.

The road trip home for Bloom, suggested and planned by Dunst, was an absolutely beautiful expereince for him; one worth considering re-creating in our own lives. Note: As a Christian, I found the scene of the couple waking up together in the bedroom unnecessary to the plot; but the rest of the movie’s story line is worthwhile.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Kris Taranec, age 46
Positive—I thought this would be a romantic-comedy, which it was, but not all mushy gushy, and more than I thought it would be. There were a few swear words, no sex or nudity, although it gave the point that they slept together. It was funny and cute, romantic, but it was really heart-warming most of all. It has a good story line and had a good cast who did a good job. I would recommend it!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Kriss, age 24
Positive—Unlike most current movies, Elizabethtown is primarily artistic in nature—in other words, it attempts to connect in some way to its viewers. Perhaps the portrayal of Southern culture isn’t completely accurate, but for the most part, I’d say that it was pretty accurate. I think that the main point of the story was to show the initial culture shock and then acceptance of a success-oriented California boy who is thrown into Southern, family-oriented culture. His growing understanding of who his father was and why he loved his Southern family and his new romance with this strange southern girl is what makes him realize that success isn’t what really matters. Not to mention, this movie probably has the best soundtrack of any recent movie that I have seen.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4½
—Brandon, age 20
Positive—Best movie I’ve seen. Actors are great. Lesson learned. Live life, and appreciate all the blessings you have. Every day!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality:
—Bill Graef, age 55 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—Not far from where we live is a town called Elizabethtown, KY. For that reason, and also because one of my wife’s favorite TV chefs (Paula Dean) had a small part in it, we decided to go and see this film. It is starring Orlando Bloom (“The Lord of the Rings”) and Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-man”) in a romantic comedy about life and family. It is written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire). As the movie begins, Orlando’s character is being fired because of a billion dollar failure in his company. He feels his life is over as he hears that his dad just died. Suddenly, he has to be the responsible person and go to KY and get his dad’s body and meet all of his family: A lot of aunts and uncles and cousins that he has never met before.

There are humorous things, and touching moments, and some heart-warming events that make up the bulk of the movie. We enjoyed it for the most part. Kirsten’s character was a lot of fun as she sort of pursued Orlando. There were things we didn’t care for: the occasional curse word, implied sexual situation, Susan Sarandon tells a funny story for laughs that has sexual content, and at one point the music got really loud. (We wished we could turn it down.) There were also times we laughed out loud. The reviews are mixed. One critic I read did not like Orlando’s performance. I thought he did okay. Perhaps another actor could have made it more interesting. This film is rated PG-13, and I give it a B.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Warren Sager, age 48
Negative
Negative—The first ½ hour of this film was so lame and boring that if I had not seen any previews I would have left the theatre. But I kept having faith it was going to get better and I like Paula Deen. Orlando’s acting did not bloom in this role at all and why they didn’t give him a more attractive hairstyle is beyond me. The character of Dunst was very outgoing and bright but it took until almost to the end of the movie before she could coax Bloom to even look at her twice. By then I was tired of seeing her ever smiling face filling the entire screen. In the meantime she is almost smothering him with her stalking presence and in between she keeps saying she is waiting for someone named Ben but yet tells Bloom she really likes him.

The best part of the film was almost at the end when she sends Bloom on a cross the country road trip that she miraculously outlined and compiled complete with CD music in a scrapbook. One wonders when she had the time to do this since she popped up every few minutes in the movie by his side. The road trip was wonderful and fun and if they could have started the movie with this and gone backwards this film would have been awesome. This film just showed another poor example of how loyalty in a company is not reciprocated to a loyal employee when a project doesn’t go well. And even though Bloom and Dunst are not shown sleeping together its insinuated without ever having had a relationship or friendship other then talking on the telephone once all night.

…some moderate drinking with wedding guests and Bloom with a beer and Dunst carrying a glass of wine. One wonders if the 30 minutes they left out of this movie might have saved it or explained the obsession with the deceased’s blue suit? And can someone explain why Sarandon got applauded for tap dancing at her husband’s memorial service? Grief does do strange things.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Jo Wendland, age 50
Negative—In terms of editing, acting, storyline, etc., the strengths and weaknesses add up to no more than average quality. For instance, although there are memorable scenes, dozens of headshots of pensive Orlando and perky Kirsten, to the backdrop of (nice) pop music, are apparently expected to hold the attention of the audience. They do not.

However, what concerns me most is that I have read a couple of Christian reviews that find the theme of “redemptive love” in this movie. Where? A man on an airplane is thinking self-destructive thoughts. A stewardess “falls” for him for no known reason. (Presumably, for the female audience the fact that the man is Orland Bloom is expected to be sufficient reason.) She begins to pursue him. Yes, she is cute, perky, friendly, and giving. In fact, she goes to bed with him, while knowing that he does not want a relationship with her. [Spotlight’s reviewer’s interpretation that the relationship was not consummated is quite questionable.]

In the end, her winsome ways prevail, and our hero embraces her and life. (No real plot surprise there.) But her behavior is not a model of the self-sacrificial, redemptive love of Jesus. Her behavior is grounded on romantic fantasy that leads to self-destructive relationships built on infatuation and the appeal of “missionary dating” (dating to “save” the bad/lost boy or girl). This story element is what should stand out as “objectionable.” A Christian audience should be quite wary of such a message, not endorse it as an example of a sweet love story.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Rod Duke, age 52
Negative—I had a bad feeling about this movie before I took my sixteen year old to see it, and I was right. This movie is not a “chick flick” but a “stupidity flick.” There is no reason to waste your time watching this movie as there is no plot, no bonding with the very unbelievable characters, and no resolution to ANY of the many questions/problems these characters have.

I would say this is the worst movie of the year and both of these actors’ careers will be hurt by this movie. Resist this one, even when its’ on the “Rental for $l.00” shelf. By the way, my sixteen year old’s comment after seeing the movie was “that may be the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen.”
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2
—Anita, age 40ish
Comments from young people
Positive—This was such a beautiful movie… The only objections: I heard the F-word twice, once used when a guy was very happy and the other was when he was mad. Also, Bloom’s mother describing the guy she hugged. Other than that… it was really, really good. Such a postive movie. He learns what is really important in life-not capatalism but love and family. Beautiful. The Chuck and Cindy wedding was so funny, as was the little boy feeding the ham to the dog. This movie is more positive than any other I’ve seen this year. …
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Lydia, age 18
Positive—I liked this movie! It wasn’t a “laugh-a-minute” kind of movie, but that’s okay. I like how it had a dark humor. The road trip at the end was really cool and I loved how he spread his father’s ashes all around the country. Chuck (Chuck and Cindy’s wedding) was hilarious and so was the video that made the wild kids be quiet. …They said a few mild cuss words and the “f” word twice. But other than that, it was a cute movie.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Bree, age 13
Neutral—I was looking forward to a good, funny movie to watch and was disappointed. This movie needs some serious editing. I got bored near the end and left. It could have been good, but the storyline needed some help and, like I said, it was boring. As far as moral stuff goes, it was about average for the chick-flick genre. I didn’t think it was worth spending my money on, even though I’m an Orlando Bloom fan.
My Ratings: Average / 2½
—Brittney, age 15
Neutral—I went to go see this movie with some of my friends (our main reason for going was because Orlando Bloom was in it), and while I did enjoy spending time with my friends, I didn’t really enjoy the movie as much. While some people didn’t seem to notice it, there was profanity (two times even in the background music). There wasn’t as much language as I was expecting, but still enough for me to notice it. There was even a joke that had a strong sexual reference that was repeated a couple times, seen in the movie as a joke.

To me, the scene where Drew and Claire (Bloom and Dunst) wake up the next morning didn’t seem that blatant to me; I didn’t even think about it until some female characters in the movie called Claire a derogatory name for being sleazy. To me, the beginning scene where Drew (almost, but then gets sidetracked) attempts to commit suicide set the whole tone of the movie, until the end, as a depressing one. Overall, I enjoyed going to the movie, but if you want to see it, I would suggest waiting until it comes out on video. It was an OK movie.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Heather H., age 16
Positive—This is a pretty good movie. Orlando Bloom and Kiersten Dunst did a really good job! I saw this movie because I am a very big fan of Orlando Bloom, but when I saw it I didn’t just like it because of him, it had a great story to it. I would recommend this movie for the ages of 12 and up. There was a few inappropriate scenes that has to do with sex, a few curse words, and about two times somebody said God’s name in vain. Those are the only bad things about this movie. It is such a sweet story, it may get boring in the beginning but stay for the whole thing because it gets really good!! It is very funny! The people in the theatre, including me laughed. I would definitely recommend this movie…
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Carolyn, age 12
Neutral—I went to see this movie not sure what to expect. I had read some reviews and knew there was some objectional content, but not too much. Afterwards, I was glad I had gone. I went with my dad and it was fun to have some time together, the movie was sweet and I was extremely impressed with the actors. Though I’m not an Orlando Bloom fan by far, his ability to portray the man that he was in this film was very admirable. I absolutly loved the ending and how Claire showed how much she cared about him. Besides a few cuss words and a couple sexual references this movie was very good to me, I would recommend it to teenagers and adults.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Ansley, age 13
Positive—I went to see this movie with some friends for a birthday party. Normally love stories in any form do not appeal to me, but this was a funny and sweet movie. I was disappointed with a couple inappropriate references, including one night where the two main characters spend together, but for older teens and adults this movie is great. The entire issue of Drew learning to let go of his grief, yet lovingly remembering his father, goes deep and is touching. Claire’s optimism is refreshing and a nice change of pace. Then, of course, both learn that good things can happen when you don’t expect it. Very cute, interesting, sweet, and a reminder that good things aren’t always far away; it pays to be optimistic.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Emily, age 15