A strangely stultified romance, Cameron Crowe's ELIZABETHTOWN does not know how to end. Or, for that matter, how to begin or develop or provide much in the way of sustained entertainment. Though it plainly aspires to a sort of "freshness," given its peculiar rhythms and offbeat comedy, it's flattened by its focus on a dull boy hero and his clichéd redemption by the love of a quirky girl. The movie takes its time getting to their clinch, as Drew must absorb a slew of life lessons before he can fully appreciate the odd beauties of this special girl. Drew's slow-on-the-uptake ineptitude may be a function of his upbringing (he remembers his dad fondly), his bizarre misreading of Ellen, or his immersion in cubicle-design-think, but the movie doesn't offer much in the way of explanation.
It does offer plenty of banal celebrations of small town values. Not only does Drew come to appreciate the casseroles (courtesy of an aunt played by cooking show host Paula Deen), instant familiarity, and cozy community of Elizabethtown, but he's also witness to what seems a three-tiered father-son dysfunction: his uncle (Loudon Wainwright III), his "Freebird"-loving cousin Jessie (Paul Schneider), and his little screaming nephew Samson. By the time Drew has processed all this Experience (and watched his mother perform a tap dance to "Moon River" in honor of his dad), Elizabethtown is quite over, thank you. But it persists, with a coda in the shape of a road trip, mapped and narrated by Quirky Girl and set to a rock classics-compilation soundtrack, setting Drew's life lessons against an outlandish national history encompassing Elvis at Sun Studios, and memorials marking Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination and the Oklahoma City bombing. Maybe it's about losses, recoveries, and recollections. And maybe it's about not knowing how to end.