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Elizabethtown Revisited

From: Todd Zimmerman

I might be a day late and a dollar short on this comment, having only just seen "Elizabethtown" on DVD, but I am quite shocked that none of the reviews I could find on the web mention what seems to me to be the actual story line. Granted you have to read between the lines, but the lines are triple-spaced. I feel as if a practical joke has been played on me by this movie and I just want to know if anyone else gets it. From the reviews I can find I seem to be the only person who knows they were taken for a ride. Kudos to Cameron Crowe for the slight of hand (unless he didn't intend what happened).

I need to point out that I am not a religious man; and I seem to be as dense as the rest of American movie goers because it wasn't until my second viewing that the clear story slapped me in the face (the first viewing I saw what most people saw, an unspectacular "Nice" movie for Crowe to showcase his mastery of classic rock). I suppose if Crowe had put in a small scene showing Claire being sent down to Earth on a mission to save Drew the movie would have gotten slammed for that. Can't win.

I see this as an irreverent, falling angel story (literally). It only makes sense if Claire/Kirsten Dunst is a discontent angelic being whose job it is to come down and get people back on the path-road to God (60-B G0-D). The first thing she says to Drew is "...You definitely may have saved my job..." She mentions she is a student of names [hint, pay attention audience]. Ben (name means Son = God) is "...delightful, complex...almost too complex to be around..." Come on! an airplane with one passenger, and then this talk from left field about Ben, and a quick map to a tiny back-road town 45 minutes from where she lives in another state. Her whole attitude in the plane and the airport is that of a PR person for route 60-B (even after she realizes his father died).

I've been around some crazy, hopped-up, psychochicks in my time, but none were as erratic as Crowe's trained-professional flight attendant acts here (and we can assume he has been around enough of hopped-up psychochicks to write within the boundaries of reality). Crowe generally has something underlying in mind when he writes a quirky women character. Claire just never had her "Lady Goodman" scene to explain her character's foundation to the audience.

- Her trip to Hawaii = back to Heaven the next day, which she reluctantly decides to pass on.

- The personnel interview: she says something about if she fails Ben will be gone (alludes to her not doing her job in the skies well and that Drew is her last chance).

- Her quote "I'm hard to forget but impossible to remember" makes a lot of sense if she really is sent to earth to guide people.

- She has to make a decision about her own future in addition to saving Drew. Is personal love on Earth more rewarding than impersonal love from Ben. Movies like "Dogma" and "Constantine" have main characters who are discontented angels questioning the attention and love for them from God.

- Claire = Clear, to show the path

- Ben (God)

- Elizabethtown (Elijah - Beth = daughter of the profit of the messiah -- forgiveness)

- Defective shoes, soles, soul

- Phil = Fall = Satan doing all he can to get a soul-damning suicide out of Drew, who is basically a good person, (sets him up for years from hand picking him for the training program on through the production of the shoe).

- Phil's quote about "original thought" (original sin).

- Drew chooses wild office party (pride, earthly delights, etc.) over Christmas w/ family (turning away from God)

- Norman Rockwell (goodness) linked to JFK assassination -- trophies

- Jessie = Jesus "unconventional", fixes computers = modern man's problems. Super lenient to his child Samson (Samson doesn't seem to have a mother...odd?), and everyone is equal in his house (Lincoln and Ronnie Van Zant).

Three aspects of God watching Drew's actions (and in charge of organizing

- Uncle Dale (Jesus' father) -- law giver-enforcer

- Charles Dean - Wisdom and compassion (also walks out of the smoking-dripping assembly room talking to Claire, who has just made her life-choice to stay with Drew)

- Bill Banor - Jovial aspect -- Played a part in guiding the life of Drew's father via the bad business deal (God acts in mysterious ways).

- Holly-Holy -- Drew's mother finally finds salvation. Odd that at the last minute Mitch changes wedding plans to be with-save Holly (lost soul). They meet in an "elevator."

- Ellen girlfriend -- Phil's assistant (sounds a lot like Hell doesn't it? It makes more sense (and is more interesting) than a cheap link between Bloom and Helen of Troy).

- Cremation symbolic of fire... looked down upon by the townspeople. Drew finally sees the stove-top flame and runs to the urn shop (odd that the urn sales guy/cremator and Claire give each other funny looks, and then the cremation is done ahead of schedule).

- Rusty (God) -- Built original house, termites (sin), destroys his house, going to build a new house. He gets the attention of his children so that they act properly before the destruction of the house.

- Chuck and Cindy; crazy partiers who won't have sex until they are married! It's funny that Claire is quite willing to break that rule and then gets called a slut by Cindy (in a good natured way) when Claire gets off the elevator on the ground floor.

- Many references to Hell by everybody, not much else in the way of bad language, though.

I can write a five page term-paper about vague symbolism in "Moby Dick" or "Rumble Fish," which means making crap up that the author may or may not have intended, therefore I tried to ignore the dozens of little things in this movie that could have imagined meaning (like Cindy calling Claire a slut -- but I had to point it out because is even funnier when it goes into that context.)

In the end, the hidden story line makes a lot more sense than the literal story. I don't know if it is that much better (it certainly is not original) or if it would have gotten the movie better reviews if Crowe had pointed out to the audience (it may have pulled more heart strings.) It did make my second and subsequent viewings more entertaining as I played a game to see what I was slid under my nose on the first pass.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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