|Directed by||Cameron Crowe|
|Written by||Cameron Crowe|
|Produced by||Cameron Crowe|
|Edited by||David Moritz|
|Music by||Nancy Wilson|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$52 million|
Elizabethtown is a 2005 American romantic tragicomedy film written and directed by Cameron Crowe and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Its story follows a young shoe designer who is down on his luck and was recently fired from his job after costing his company close to $1 billion. On the verge of suicide, he receives a call from his sister informing him of the death of his father. He then decides to return to his hometown of Elizabethtown to lay his father to rest and becomes involved in an unexpected romance. It stars Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Alec Baldwin, and Susan Sarandon.
The film was produced by Cruise/Wagner Productions and Vinyl Films. It premiered September 4, 2005, at the 2005 Venice Film Festival and was released worldwide on October 14, 2005. It grossed $10.6 million in its opening weekend and $52.2 million worldwide, against a budget of $45 million. It received generally negative reviews and has a 28% approval rating based on 178 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Drew Baylor (Bloom) is a designer for a global sportswear company, Mercury. When his latest shoe design, hyped to be a great accomplishment in his life, has a flaw that will cost the company $972 million to correct, Drew is shamed by his boss, Phil (Baldwin), before he is asked to speak to the press-his future unknown but probably over at Mercury.
Disappointed in his failure, and the subsequent breakup with his fair weather girlfriend, Ellen, he toys with the idea of suicide, only to be stopped at the last moment by a call from his sister Heather telling him that his father has died while visiting family in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. When his mother, Hollie (Sarandon), refuses to go because of a long-time dispute between her and the rest of the Kentucky Baylors, Drew volunteers to retrieve his father's body. It's apparent that the family is bitter about Hollie and Mitch (the father) moving to the West Coast.
On the flight to Kentucky, Drew meets a flight attendant named Claire (Dunst), who is managing the completely empty 747. In order to make her shift easier, she strikes up a conversation with Drew and invites him to move up to first-class seating. Depressed about his work failure, Drew tries to ignore the bubbly, quirky personality of Claire who has nothing to do on the flight except talk to him incessantly about Kentucky and alludes to her boyfriend, "Ben", who is a workaholic. At the end of the trip, Claire gives him a piece of paper with directions, helpful tips, and her phone number to help him get to his destination before they part. Drew dismisses Claire, who seems to be trying to get the last of his attentions as he walks to the airport exit.
When he gets to Elizabethtown, Drew is met by the family, and he makes arrangements for a cremation at his mother's request, despite the family's objections. While staying at a hotel, where a raucous bachelor party and wedding reception is being held, Drew calls his mother and sister, then his ex-girlfriend as he continues to struggle with boredom and depression. Finally, he calls Claire, who is also alone because Ben is working out of state, and they talk for hours. She impulsively suggests they meet at sunset, before she has to depart on a flight to Hawaii. They have a quiet, platonic moment and then they part ways as she leaves for her trip.
Drew struggles politically between the family members and his mother's demands regarding burial arrangements. His mother is in a manic streak of attempting self-improvement to compensate for the loss of her husband. At the hotel, Claire suddenly appears, claiming Drew's needs for help outweigh her needs for a tropical vacation. They tour various parts of Kentucky and she helps him at the funeral home, picking out the urn and keeping Drew emotionally on track.
During a post-dinner discussion with the older family, Drew sees the stovetop flame and panics about the cremation process. He rushes to the funeral home, but is too late to stop his father's cremation. Solemn, he takes the urn back to the hotel, where Claire has crashed the bachelorette party. Things lead to their obvious physical conclusion back in his hotel room, but sadly for Claire, Drew is still wrapped up in his job and self-pity and they part on strained terms.
Hollie and Heather arrive for the service, and Hollie, with newfound self confidence, makes a breakthrough with the family with a standup comedy routine and a farewell to Mitch tap dance. Claire arrives, and tells Drew to take one final trip with his father, giving him a binder box with customized itineraries and mix CDs for the road trip. Drew follows the map home, spreading his father's ashes at memorable destinations until reaching the final destination at the "World's Second Largest Farmer's Market" in Nebraska, where a series of notes and clues gives him a choice; to either follow the map home, or follow new direction and search for the "girl in the red hat." He chooses the latter, where Claire is also looking for him. The two kiss and Drew realizes he loves her.
On a second viewing of the movie, Roger Ebert makes the observation that the film is really a hidden story of an angel who has fallen from grace. Claire, the angel, is met in the heavens (the empty plane) and has decided to guide Drew through his depression, suicidal thoughts and redeem himself from failure. Character names, the corporation, etc. were found to be allusions to Hell, The Bible, sin and the devil. Drew has to redeem and cleanse himself from working with the devil. Claire also needs to make the choice to remain on Earth at the end. The movie is thought to take various cues from the movies "It's a Wonderful Life", "Dogma", and the "City of Angels".
Jane Fonda was cast in Sarandon's role, but had to drop out. Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Colin Hanks, Chris Evans, and James Franco all auditioned for Bloom's part. Kutcher was actually hired to play Drew, but director Cameron Crowe decided during filming that the chemistry between him and Dunst was not right and Kutcher left the project. Biel auditioned for the female lead, but was given a smaller role as Drew's ex-girlfriend.
There is a character named Ben who is mentioned as a love interest of Claire. In the original cut of the film, Ben is revealed to be Claire's brother.
Recognizable settings for scenes shot in Louisville, Kentucky, include the Brown Hotel, Highland Middle School, and Cave Hill Cemetery. Opening scene shows a helicopter flying over downtown Portland, Oregon, and the Fremont Bridge. Although the exterior, lobby, and corridors of the Brown Hotel are seen, the hotel's Crystal Ball Room was replicated on a soundstage. While Bloom's character is supposedly driving to Elizabethtown, he is traveling in the wrong direction. He is also pictured going through the Cherokee Park tunnel, which happens to be on I-64. Elizabethtown is on I-65, about 40 miles (64 km) in the other direction.
Although the title of the movie is Elizabethtown, most of the small town scenes were actually filmed in Versailles, Kentucky. Only two scenes portraying distinctive landmarks were filmed in Elizabethtown itself, because many of Elizabethtown's historic buildings have been replaced by chain stores and sprawl. A few scenes were filmed in LaGrange. Other local scenes were filmed in Otter Creek Park in Meade County, near Brandenburg. Filming also took place in Scottsbluff, Nebraska; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Oklahoma City.
In the original cut of the film shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, an epilogue reveals that the flaw in the shoe designed by Drew turns out to be a hit with consumers. This was cut from the release version of the film to prevent the ending from seeming overly drawn-out.
Elizabethtown received mostly negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 28% approval rating based on 178 reviews, with an average score of 4.8/10. The site's consensus is "this story of a floundering shoe designer who returns home for a family tragedy gets lost in undeveloped plot lines and lackluster performances."  It holds a Metacritic score of 45 out of 100 from 37 critics.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review with three stars out of four. He describes the story as the most unrelenting "Meet Cute" in movie history. He goes on to say that although the film is nowhere near one of Crowe's great films like Almost Famous, it’s sweet and good-hearted and has some real laughs. Ebert later reprinted on his site an analysis of the film pointing out various plot elements supporting the idea that Claire is actually an angel.
In his review, Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club created the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" to describe the "bubbly, shallow cinematic creature" stock character type that he stated Dunst plays in the film.
Elizabethtown was commercially released on October 14, 2005, in the United States. It was distributed to 2,517 theaters and grossed $4,050,915 on its opening day. At the end of its opening weekend, the film had grossed $10,618,711, making it the third-highest gross for that weekend. Overall, the film grossed $52,034,889 worldwide during its 68-day release.
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