No one does falling in love like Cameron Crowe. Those half-thoughts that trip off the tongue and go crashing to the floor, the delicious uncertainty of the first few contacts, the faltering steps that move you closer and closer towards a place from which you can’t turn back. Romantics will love Elizabethtown, which promises comedy and sneaks in romance, and so by rights should everyone else. Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is a colossal failure – he just lost his shoe company nearly $1 billion. As he ponders his life and plans an elaborate suicide, he learns that his father has just died, and so postpones his self-murder to travel to the eponymous town to collect the corpse and return it to his family. However, upon arrival he discovers that the town isn’t ready to give up their favourite son yet, even if he is deceased. And, in Hollywood style, during his stay Drew manages to fall in love, reconfigure his self-understanding and even bond with his estranged, and very dead, father.
Central to the narrative is the burgeoning relationship between gloomy Drew and the free-spirited air hostess Claire (played with luminescent self-awareness by Kirsten Dunst), and though their tentative steps towards love provide some of the most memorable moments, Crowe peoples Elizabethtown with a myriad of interesting, believable and fundamentally good people – from the comical inbred cousin who swears he and Drew are identical to Susan Sarandon’s bereaved middle aged woman who holds sway in the film’s most moving (and perversely funniest) moments.
If Elizabethtown were to be described in a word, it would certainly be beguiling. Dunst entrances, Orlando impresses, the set pieces stir warm remembrances and stir dormant hopes. Crowe’s worldview has never been sunnier – optimism overflows in stark contrast to the nostalgic loss which imbues Almost Famous, his previous film. People find love, people are able to heal their pasts, and people manage to fulfil the dream that long since passed them by. Elizabethtown really is a place worth visiting.