Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Scary Truth

Jesus (not Jesus, Jesus, but Jesus) I'm almost 30. This morning really kicked that in for me. People my age have kids and shit. I had that weird wave of "Time to really ship up your ship" shit go through me. Not that I'm not an adult. I mean I've owned my own home, etc. etc. It's just I had that flash. I don't want to be a 30 year old boy.

Whatever. At least I can claim I'm married. And shit is moving forward I guess.

Elizabethtown is one of the most wrongheaded films I've seen, probably ever. It's not terrible, terrible should be reserved for the Taxis of the world. It opens with a self fulfilling prophecy of a character analyzing his failure, and is about to kill himself. Yet, other than the evidence presented by language, this is never felt in Orlando Bloom's rather nominal performance.

And 2005 is the year that proved (definitively, I reckon, the Pirates sequels are being sold on Johnny Depp) that Bloom is not a leading man. He's the 21st century's John Gavin. But I think Crowe may be one of those directors who doesn't trust great actors. I think he loves dialogue, and he's sort of great at writing it, but he seems to like casting performers who don't bring much to the table (there are some notable exceptions). It seems John Cusack reconfigured the role of Lloyd Dobler to give the character the darkness that makes him so goddamned lovable in the film, and I wonder if Crowe bucks at that. This is probably a theory better for a blog than published, but I get that sneaking suspicion. And there is a sense in the film that Crowe is trying to leap to a more cinematic (pictorial) sensibility, but has to put everything in words. He overwrites, especially in the overwhelmingly awkward final third that has a character on a road trip at a point in the movie that makes said road trip feel sluggish and pointless.

That said, this film is obviously a mess, and one wonders how much of Judy Greer and D-Day ended up on the cutting room floor. Oh, huge cardinal offense, putting a character on a stage and trying to win over a crowd that never happens emotionally (though the crowd behaves as it is written to, alas). Played by Susan Sarandon, in a role that is an embarrassment to which little of it seems her fault.

The film is about the loss of a father without ever being about it. About being in a strange southern environment without ever feeling connected. About a character ready to kill himself without ever feeling like he's ready to kill himself. It seems all this is to (or became out of failings, hard to say how much or what hit the cutting room floor) foster a love story between Bloom and Kristen Dunst, playing the archtypal "Girl who shows up and does all the work." This sort of character needs to die. There's also a sequence where the two are on their phones all night, and the rhythms of the scene are just all wrong. Crowe seems to have lost touch, he knows the rhythms, but people have become abstractions to him, there's a sequence when Bloom steals a beer that could have been great, but it never hits on a real feeling.

I was nervous about the film, mostly because I have huge father issues, and was facing the strong possibilty of my father's death weeks ago. And yet there is no sense of that relationship, really, even though it's suggested Bloom and his father had a complicated and empty relationship. There's dad stuff in here, but it goes nowhere.

Watching the film, I was reminded of my brother's wedding. Before it started, I had to run to work, and found out my friend DK wrote a piece about me in the latest issue of PDXS, a now defunct weekly. I brought a couple issues home, and my (great) Aunt Veda (now deceased) told me I shouldn't tell my brother about it or mention it because it was his day. Fair enough I thought, though I showed it to my brother, and he was stoked.

Cut to: the wedding dinner. The family were asked to say something, and at my turn I stood up and got choked up, voice a-cracking talking about my bro. I was supremely happy for him, and tried to explain my joy for him (note: they're now divorced), and I said some words that were pretty emotional for me and the crowd (I was told later my crying made others weepy as well). When it came time for my aunt Veda to say something, it was all about how she lived in La Grande, and a short version of her life story. It was a very base irony, but I couldn't help but choke on it.