Why Jerry Maguire Is The Best Cameron Crowe Movie Ever...

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A few weeks ago I PVR'd Cameron Crowe's classic 90s film Jerry Maguire off of my godsend free movie channel, Encore Avenue HD. And you know what, despite its lengthiness, I enjoyed every second of it. After a quick mental analysis of the Cameron Crowe movies I'm familiar with, I decided Jerry Maguire was possibly his best film ever. Then I decided to document it, here.

Crowe's major career started with directing and writing the beloved 'Say Anything' starring a doe-eyed John Cusack in his prime. However anyone that has seen or talked about that movie knows it makes little sense and is ultimately a sad story. An 80s teen classic to be sure, but aside from the infamous boom box scene, not exactly the stuff iconic films are made of.

After that in the early 90s he moved onto 'Singles', a forgettable (as in, I haven't seen it) rehashing of St. Elmo's Fire with twenty-somethings searching for love in tres hip Seattle. The fact I haven't even heard of this movie probably speaks volumes. So I'll leave it at that.

Following 1996's Jerry Maguire, Crowe stepped up to write, produce, and direct his possibly most beloved film, 'Almost Famous'. Don't get me wrong, this is a great movie with a great cast. It showcases Kate Hudson's best (and unfortunately, one of her earliest) performance to date and features a wonderful ensemble cast from Jason Lee's snotty rocker to Zooey Deschanel's charming big sister take to the always on Frances McDormand in her taut mother role. The main problem I have with this movie is the fact it never really settles on a protagonist. Although you see this world through the lens of inexperienced youth William Miller, you rarely feel attached to him. The main emotional scenes of the movie surround Hudson's Penny Lane and the overall dynamics of Stillwater. It's hard to fall in love with a protagonist that consistently exposes his naivete, making the viewer feel superior over and over again. Plus I feel like the boxes were drawn a bit too finely around each character. Still, a fantastic movie in my collection.

After Jerry and Famous, Cameron Crowe had elevated himself to new heights - his films managed to be commercially successful, viable for awards, and ultimately endearing, nostalgic, almost timeless works of cinematic art.

However his next two films after that - despite being highly touted and buzzed about in advance - failed to grab viewers or awards, tarnishing Crowe's reputation. I actually like both of them but...I can see why you wouldn't.

Vanilla Sky reunited Crowe with Tom Cruise, aka Jerry Maguire, as well as sparked the Cruz/Cruise relationship, and perhaps revealed Cameron Diaz's true possessive nature (that drove Justin away?) in one of *her* best performances to date. I liked this movie for its realism mixed with fantasy - specifically in the 'realistic' parts of the film. The Cruz/Cruise connection was amazingly captured on film, I found Penelope absolutely adorable in this movie despite not being a massive fan of hers, and I believed the romance scenes between them. Again, Diaz's insanity was brilliantly played here. However, the whole film loses its lustre with its ending, which I won't ruin for you - it plays on science fiction a fair bit which is such a juxtaposition with the rest of the slightly eccentric and mysterious yet charming and passionate tone of the rest of the film.

Following that we have Elizabethtown, better known as an excellent showcase for the amazing soundtracks Crowe put together, but an underwhelming love story between two twenty-somethings getting in touch with their adult sides. Orlando Bloom jumped on this project to shift his reputation as a 'serious' actor, but he never quite fits the role of the lauded shoe designing wunderkid with his tail between his legs as he returns home for his father's funeral. Kirsten Dunst suits the role of the perky (almost annoyingly so) stewardess much better than her male counterpart, but unlike Crowe's earlier films, he fails to really build out the supporting cast, choosing instead to focus on Bloom who as mentioned, doesn't really fit. Dunst's character of Claire and Bloom's entire extended family are underused or packaged into extremely tight packages. I also recall reading a scathing review that picked up on the fact Susan Sarandon (as Bloom's mom) goes through a ridiculous number of mid-life crises' in the film's short time period.

Since then, all has remained on the Cameron Crowe front - Elizabethtown was released in 2005 (and yes, I have it on DVD and both soundtracks...I could watch the film to see the soundtrack play out alone) and it appears Crowe is in pre-production for a new film with Reese Witherspoon and Ben Stiller for release in 2010.

Now...here are my 7 reasons why Jerry Maguire is the best Crowe film of all time (and likely will be) in no particular order.

#1) Iconography - I watched 'The Godfather' for the first time the other day, and I was amazed at just how many famous phrases come from that film. The same is very true of Jerry Maguire. From 'show me the moneyyy' to 'you complete me' to 'you had me at hello' to 'help me, help you' the film offers no end of now cliched expressions that are completely embedded in our language. It takes a very well-written and received film to reach the level of integration JM has.

#2) Renee Zwelleger - this movie launched her career, without a doubt. Mostly because she is adorable, does a perfect job of playing the wide-eyed, naive single mom still hoping for something more, and she just *looks* better. Her eyes aren't as squinty, her voice isn't as gravelly, her body isn't deathly thin - she just looks lovely, in a way that also screams normalcy next to Kelly Preston's primped and glossy character.

#3) Ensemble Cast Development - every character, and I mean EVERY character in this movie is so amazingly well-rounded. In many ways, this book works like a novel in its characterization - the little details in the set design to their appearance to the lines they say, they all speak volumes about every character. Just looking at one or two examples - Bonnie Hunt's big sister character, Laurel, runs a divorcee club, is blunt with both Jerry and Dorothy about their relationship, has a protective mother bear streak for Dorothy and her son yet no children of her own, and believes in being conservative. Regina King's wife demonstrates loyalty, passion, strength, and tenacity in virtually every scene she's in. Even the most minor of characters - Dorothy's male nanny, Rod's slacker brother, Cush's weak-boned father - are detailed and jump off the screen and stick in your mind long afterwards.

#4) Complications - sure the movie ends on a high note, but the fact is, virtually nothing in this movie comes easily. The big breaks in Jerry's otherwise haphazard life - landing Cush, landing Rod, and marrying Dorothy - all head south at one point or another, and cost Jerry more than a piece of his sanity and soul. Even though the movie implies things are looking up for Jerry, it never actually takes the Hollywood ending route of the 'and suddenly, Jerry got millions of phone calls with new clients to take on'. The movie manages to both condemn and laud many of the themes and characters - including Jerry's flash of inspiration, Dorothy's search for a happily ever after, and Rod's mixture of heart and headiness when it comes to playing sports.

#5) Jerry Maguire - the character of Jerry is one of Tom Cruise's finest acting performances, mostly because he stops being Tom Cruise for five seconds and lets himself be both humiliated and shameless. He is endearing, especially in his realization that the self he's been for so many years maybe isn't so great - highlighted in his engagement party video. He doesn't want to be another sports agent guy, but he also recognizes it's the only way to do business. He is ungrateful, but not stupid enough to realize when he's got something good (or when something is worth letting go, like his fiancee). Like the entire film, Jerry Maguire is a complicated character, one that is easily relatable as we see his flaws in ourselves.

#6) Johnathan Lipnicki - Seriously this kid is freaking adorable in this movie. I don't care if he grew up to be an ugly irrelevant bugger, in the film, he steals every scene he's in. His scenes, although adorable, aren't just played for laughs. They're critical to cementing the tricky situation of shoplifting the pooty that Rod harasses Jerry about. This isn't just playtime with your sister's nephew, it's a child who is simply looking for someone to latch onto that they can rely on.

#7) It Takes Times - Unlike many movies today, this story does not happen overnight. Although the timeline is shady - particularly in terms of the Dorothy / Jerry love story - you get to experience the passage of time in a difficult time in every character's life, particularly via the football season. When things do seem to move rapidly, such as Dorothy's marriage to Jerry, the movie makes a point of showing the failures in this. The ending also acknowledges that it will take time for Jerry to really be successful at his 'new way' of managing sports stars.

There you have it. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I still love this movie. Yes it's long. Yes it's a little emotional. And yes you're more than likely tired of the famous lines being quoted in excess during the 90s. But it's great, and an example of what amazing filmmaking can be.

- Britt's On

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