Writer/director Cameron Crowe sends co-stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst on an American journey of self-discovery in his highly personal new film. Alan Silverman has a look at Elizabethtown.
It is just one chapter in his life, but it does prove more interesting than he expects. Drew Baylor has just lost his job after a mistake that costs the company millions of dollars. But wait, there's more. His girlfriend won't return his calls; and then he gets the news that his father has died on a visit to his hometown, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Drew must go there to arrange the funeral details. It starts to get interesting on the way there, however, when a vivacious flight attendant named Claire won't leave him alone.
She does that a lot, it turns out; and Orlando Bloom, who plays Drew, says the journey reminds the character about what really matters.
"It's so easy to forget what's important in life," Bloom says. "It's so easy to be bombarded with the idea that the new watch I'm wearing is going to make me happy; and I'm as much of a sucker for it as the next person, but Drew has forgotten about what's important in life at the beginning of this movie and his journey is to learn to appreciate that."
Kirsten Dunst co-stars as cheery Claire, who takes Drew on as a personal project; 'a helper' is what she calls herself.
"It was funny, during the making of this movie I was really sad because you're not getting anything back and you're giving so much to so many other people," Dunst says. "I feel like that's the way Claire was. She spends a lot of time on other people, giving people advice and learning about people; and she doesn't really take care of herself in that way."
Writer/director Cameron Crowe says Claire represents an important belief he has.
"Life sends you angels sometimes when you're in need and, in my theory, it's usually never the people you expect to be there," Crowe says. "They are often gone the people that appear with a piece of advice or something they want to give to you to help you through are generally surprising people and I wanted Kirsten's character to be that."
Crowe told a story from his own life in his film Almost Famous, but he won't go so far as to describe Elizabethtown as autobiography.
"Well, I've done some of the same things that Orlando does in the movie, for sure; but there's a striking lack of physical similarity, I must say," says Crowe.
As in his previous films, Crowe weaves popular music into the story. He gives a central role to Elton John's "My Father's Gun."
"I always loved those early Elton John albums. I sort of keep going back there," says Crowe. "'My Father's Gun' was from Elton John's 1971 Americana album Tumbleweed Connection and it also had sadness and life in it. There was always this sense that, if the scenes go right, we could go from death - obviously, the moment in the funeral parlor - to that explosion of life in the [family] kitchen and keep it all in the context of 'My Father's Gun.'"
Orlando Bloom says that journey of discovery proved very real to him as he played Drew.
"It shows America in a way that the world needs to see it right now ... and a way that America needs to see it right now. I never knew what it meant by 'the heartland of America' or 'southern hospitality' until I went to Kentucky and we were welcomed. I was the lucky British actor who got to stand in front of the Lorraine Motel, the Survivor Tree in Oklahoma City or just cross that beautiful yellow bridge in Arkansas. I was in those locations and they are very powerful places to be," says Bloom. "This is an America that the world hasn't seen for a while ... or maybe even America has forgotten about. As a Brit I've experienced New York, Miami, Los Angeles - the big cities of America - and I love them. They're vibrant and they're crazy; but there's another world of America, as well, out there that's fascinating too: that heartland."
Most of Elizabethtown was shot on location in the film's Kentucky namesake and on Drew's cross-country road trip. The cast also includes Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Alec Baldwin and Paula Deen.