Saturday 10 February 2007

Jerry Maguire (1996) Cameron Crowe

Jerry Maguire is a sports agent, so all the crap at the beginning about America setting the tone for the world makes sense. Sure, I can buy the concept of seeing that little girl diver in the next Olympics but I also know that she'll get her ass handed to her by the Chinese. There are precisely three countries in the world who play baseball and only one who plays American Football, so American dominance there is a given. Basketball, I'll grant you: the rest of the world would love to play basketball like Americans and the only way we can do it is to go to the States, but that's only one sport out of four mentioned. The sport America dominates in most, even above basketball, is publicity. It knows exactly how to lie to people because that's what advertising is and that's what corporate America does. It's great at putting a nice shiny surface onto a pile of crap and making people believe whatever it wants.

That's what Jerry Maguire does, but he discovers that he hates who he has become. He works for Sports Management International and represents a ton of sports stars but flips out one night and writes a mission statement called 'The Things We Think But Do Not Say'. It really impresses Dorothy McGuire, who works in his office, but also gets him fired, so he has to start over again. She goes with him but the only star that follows suit is football player Rod Tidwell, played by Oscar winning Cuba Gooding Jr. So he gets to put his money where his mouth is and represent one person full time.

Tom Cruise is Jerry Maguire, not just because he's the actor playing the part but because he's the perfect man for the job. In many ways he really is Jerry Maguire, a piece of plastic that lives on falsehoods, and the insincerity oozes off him in swathes. Here he's telling people things they want to hear and landing them contracts so that they can tell other people things they don't want to hear, and he does it for a living. In real life he bounces up and down on Oprah's couch and sells Scientology to the masses. There really isn't anyone else who could play Maguire like this, except perhaps John Travolta, who isn't far off being the same person. Maybe one day we'll find out that neither of them really exist and they're just CGI ahead of its time.

This is possibly the truest role he's had since Risky Business, and yet he still comes close to having the show stolen out from underneath him by Jonathan Lipnicki as Dorothy's son, in his film debut at the age of six. Cuba Gooding Jr is absolutely spot on as the up and coming football player from Arizona trying to make it, and this film justifiably made his career, even though he'd already had some great roles. Renee Zellweger also made her career here and she's an excellent counter to Cruise, but she came to this role from one that really should have won her an Oscar of her own, The Whole Wide World, which stunned me. This is just where the rest of the world caught up.

As for the film itself, I haven't bought into the Cameron Crowe legend, but I also haven't seen Almost Famous yet. There's magic here but I think it may need a couple of viewings to see the real power. What I'm seeing is the performances, not the filmmaking. Is that a sign that the director's done his job really right or that he hasn't done it as well as the actors have done theirs? Maybe I'll know that after a couple more of his films. Oh, and the lines that became huge here, including 'Show me the money!' and 'You had me at 'Hello'!', don't compare in my book with another one that I hadn't even heard before: 'That's not a dress. That's an Audrey Hepburn movie.' Maybe it's just too subtle to be a catchphrase but it's still a peach.


Anonymous said...

Good review, but don't rule out Crowe or at least give some of this other gems viewing time. I think Say Anything and Almost Famous are two of his greatest films! But overall I think you summed up Jerry Maguire nicely. Well done!

jervaise brooke hamster said...

How the hell did this laughable piece of garbage girl-age to get the better of "Mars Attacks" at the box office when they were both released in late `96?, now thats a mystery.