Elizabethtown (film)

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File:Elizabethtown poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Produced by Cameron Crowe
Tom Cruise
Paula Wagner
Written by Cameron Crowe
Starring Orlando Bloom
Kirsten Dunst
Susan Sarandon
Alec Baldwin
Narrated by Orlando Bloom
Music by Nancy Wilson
Cinematography John Toll
Edited by David Moritz
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • September 4, 2005 (2005-09-04) (VIFF)
  • October 14, 2005 (2005-10-14)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $45 million
Box office $52 million[1]

Elizabethtown is a 2005 American romantic tragicomedy film written and directed by Cameron Crowe starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. Alec Baldwin has a small role as a CEO of an athletic shoe company and Susan Sarandon appears as a grieving widow.

The movie is named for being set primarily in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.


Drew Baylor (Bloom) is an intelligent young man and designer for a shoe company. When his latest 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 (Baldwin) and his coworkers before he is dismissed. Disappointed in his failure, and the subsequent breakup with his girlfriend Ellen (Jessica Biel), he plans an elaborate suicide by taping a butcher knife to an exercise bike, only to be stopped at the last moment by a tearful call from his sister Heather (Judy Greer) that his father died of a heart attack while visiting family in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Drew volunteers to retrieve the body, following a memorial service when his mother Hollie (Sarandon) refuses to go, following a dispute between her and the rest of the Kentucky Baylors, who consider them "Californian" despite the fact they were in California for a little over a year 27 years before, and instead live in Oregon.

On the flight to Kentucky, Drew meets Claire (Dunst), an optimistic, enthusiastic and kind flight attendant who gives him a seat in first class, due to the plane being empty, so she does not have to travel all the way back to coach. She proves helpful and happy to an otherwise despondent Drew, giving him directions, instructions and tips on getting to his destination before they part ways. When he gets to Elizabethtown, Drew is met with the love of the family, though he is somewhat goaded by being a "California Boy" and he makes the arrangements for a cremation at Hollie's request despite the family's objections. While staying at a hotel, where a wedding reception is being held for the weekend, Drew calls his mother and sister, then his ex-girlfriend as he continues to struggle with his suicidal thoughts. Finally, he calls Claire, who relieves his anxiety and the two of them talk for hours. She impulsively suggests they drive out to meet before she has to depart on a flight to Hawaii that morning and they meet and talk.

Drew comes to grips with his father's death, and while he is visiting his Aunt Dora, his uncle Bill remarks on how his father would look in the suit. Drew realizes that he hadn't given the suit to the mortuary to be cremated, and has second thoughts on the procedure. He rushes out to stop the cremation but is too late and is given his father's ashes. Claire returns from her flight and unexpectedly meets him at the hotel where they become friends with Chuck and Cindy, whose reception is the one being held there. Drew and Claire sleep together, but when she tells him she loves him, he responds with regret that he failed his company and failed at his life, admitting he was contemplating suicide. Claire shrugs it off, saying that it's only money and leaves upset when Drew does not respond.

Hollie and Heather arrive for the service, and Hollie gives an amusing anecdote with her eulogy, likening herself to a comedian, before dancing to their song. Claire arrives, and during a band's presentation of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 song "Free Bird" a prop lights on fire, setting off the sprinkler system. Claire tells Drew to take one final trip with his father, giving him a map and marking special stops to make along the way. Drew follows the map home, spreading his father's ashes at memorable sites until the map gives him a choice; to either follow the map home, or follow new directions. He chooses the latter, which leads him to a small town fair, where he encounters Claire waiting for him. The two kiss and Drew finally realizes what Claire has been telling him all along: life is going to be filled with fierce battles, but through the battles, redemption is found and results in a glorious life.



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 then-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. Although the exterior, lobby, and corridors of the Brown Hotel are seen, a passable replica of the Brown Hotel's Crystal Ball Room was re-created on a soundstage. While Orlando Bloom is supposedly traveling to "Elizabethtown" by car, he is going the incorrect direction on the road. He is also pictured going through the Cherokee Park tunnel, which happens to be on I-64. Elizabethtown is on I-65, about 60 miles 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, Kentucky. Other local scenes were filmed in Otter Creek Park in Meade County, near Brandenburg. Filming also took place in Scottsbluff, Nebraska;[3] Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Oklahoma City.[4]

In the original cut of the film shown at the Toronto Film Festival, an epilogue reveals that the shoe designed by Drew turns out to be a hit, as it whistles with every step. This was cut from the release version of the film to prevent the ending seeming overly-drawn out.[5]

Joni Mitchell's painting Hyde Park appears in this film. Previously, one of her paintings had appeared in Crowe's Vanilla Sky.


Critical reception

The film received generally negative reviews by critics, citing mostly Kirsten Dunst's performance and lack of originality. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 28% "Rotten" rating based on 166 reviews. 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."[6] It holds a Metacritic score of 45 out of 100.[7]

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 is sweet and good-hearted and has some real laughs.[5] Ebert would later reprint on his site an analysis of the film pointing out various plot elements supporting the idea of Claire being an angel.[8]

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

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 Dunst plays in the film.[9][10][11]

Box office

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 biggest opening for that weekend. Overall, the film grossed $52,034,889 worldwide within its release of 68 days.[1]


The film features dozens of contemporary rock songs, and Kentucky natives My Morning Jacket play Ruckus, a fictional rock group who reunite during the film.


External links