For years Cameron Crowe could do no wrong. As the screenwriter of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (based on his book of the same name) and director of Say Anything and Singles, he became what The New York Times called, “a cinematic spokesman for the post-baby boom generation.”
His biggest hit, Jerry Maguire was a romantic comedy that gave Renée Zellweger a career, Cuba Gooding Jr an Oscar and us the catchphrase, “Show me the money!”
Then came his acknowledged masterpiece Almost Famous. The semi-autobiographical story of a young music journalist on the road with a band at an age when most kids still had a curfew.
He was a critical darling with box office clout but then came a string of films that failed to connect with audiences.
This weekend he’s back with Aloha, an “action romance” starring Bradley Cooper as a military contractor stationed with the US Space program in Honolulu who reconnects with a past love (Rachel McAdams) while developing feelings for a stern Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone).
Pre-release the film may be best known as the subject of a brutal Amy Pascal e-mail. In the Sony hack leaked correspondence from the former SPE co-chairman suggested she was not happy with the movie. “I don’t care how much I love the director and the actors,” she said, “it never, not even once, ever works.”
Variety recently reported that the film has been recut since Pascal’s scathing review and quotes a current Sony executive as saying, “Is it Say Anything or Jerry Maguire? Probably not, but is it a really entertaining movie for an audience? Yes, it is.”
Moviegoers will decide the fate of Aloha, but its release begs for a reassessment of Crowe’s recent, less successful films.
A remake of the Spanish film Open Your Eyes, 2001’s Vanilla Sky starred three of Hollywood’s hottest stars of the moment, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz in a dark thriller about a self-obsessed playboy whose life is turned upside down after reconstructive surgery on his face. The surreal blend of romance and sci fi threw critics off but a another viewing a decade after its release reveals a daring movie that examines regret, desire and mortality.
An enjoyable darkly comic romance, Elizabethtown got trounced by critics (it currently sits at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes) but is a great showcase for star Kirsten Dunst. She is frequently good in films, but here she really steals this movie as the cute and kooky stewardess who has several unforgettable moments—when she tells Bloom (Orlando Bloom) to stop trying to break up with her and her giggly reaction when Bloom asks her a personal question on the telephone. Without her performance the trip to Elizabethtown wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
Finally, We Bought a Zoo, the story of a widower who swallows his grief by buying a zoo and finding love, shouldn’t work. It’s too sentimental and manipulative by half but luckily Matt Damon is there to ground the flighty story. Even a postscript (and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is), that even Steven Spielberg would find schmaltzy, works because star Damon hits all the right notes and Crowe’s dialogue sings. A father and son argument is a showstopper and you’ll likely never use the word “whatever” again without thinking of this movie.