Welcome to Land of The Nerds, where I, Douglas Laman, use my love of cinema to explore, review and talk about every genre of film imaginable!
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Jerry Maguire Is At Least Better Than We Bought A Zoo
For Jerry Maguire, Cruise applies his trademark level of intensity as a performer to the titular role of a sports agent. Maguire is the best around, he's a guy who scores every deal and gets as much money as humanely possible. But one night he has an epiphany that the company he works for can do so much more so he pens up a manifesto declaring his desire for a return to more down-to-Earth humanistic values rather than an emphasis on material wealth. That desires goes over poorly with his superiors, who proceed to can him. Maguire, with one loyal employee, Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), in tow, proceeds to start up his own rival sports talent agency.
The odds could not be more again Maguire if he tried. But he's got a star athlete, Rodney Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), at his back. Maybe Maguire can defeat those odds? Perhaps? Well, that's the basic story of Jerry Maguire, which is one of those movies that registers as fine but not quite as good as it could have been. That's a darn sight better than many modern-day Cameron Crowe directorial efforts like Aloha and We Bought a Zoo. Interestingly, though, Maguire, despite being the feature that catapulted Crowe to a whole new level of critical and financial success, does foreshadow flaws that would outright drown later Crowe features.
Specifically, there's a tendency to play things so broadly that it upends more intimate poignant moments. A break-up scene between Cruise's Maguire and Kelly Preston's Avery Bishop is a good example of this as Bishop responds to this development by beating the crud out of Maguire like she's John Wick. The way the scene is filmed, as well as the over-the-top sound effects work, convey this wacky attitude that makes it hard to take this seriously as a pivotal moment in Maguire's life. Similarly, the performances of Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. dial things up to eleven, something as simple as a wave of "hello" to a co-worker suddenly becomes extended comedic flailing.
Both actors have a bad habit of turning their respective roles into heightened caricatures you just can't get emotionally invested in. Whenever Jerry Maguire detaches itself from reality, it has a hard time reattaching itself to something that could be tangibly described as human. That's a pity because the more down-to-Earth elements of the production do tend to be successful. Renee Zellwegger especially proves to be endearing as heck as a single Mom navigating a bold choice to cut ties with a major corporation in favor of following Jerry Maguire's pie-in-the-sky independent business pursuits. Regina King and especially Johnathan Lipnicki turn in similarly winning supporting turns. The latter actor especially proves to be extremely charming as someone who can unknowingly cut through Maguire's bravado.
Crowe's work behind the camera isn't especially memorable but he and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski keep Jerry Maguire looking reasonably professional. One thing that stood out to me in Crowe's screenplay is how much it hammers home certain lines of dialogue that have ended up becoming iconic. Most of the time, famous movie lines are delivered in a surprisingly casual way because they're just meant to be another piece of dialogue in the scrip. Nobody writing The Godfather or Casablanca thought their respective instances of iconic lines would become as revered as they did. Boy howdy, though, Jerry Maguire hammers home lines like "Show me the money!" Of course that would become widely-quoted, how could anyone get it out of their head after the movie repeats it so many times?
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