Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flick of The Day: Jerry Maguire

Tom Cruise has had a storied career both on and off the screen, playing roles as diverse as a disabled Vietnam vet in Born on the 4th of July, an Irish peasant in Far and Away, lawyers, racing drivers, fighter pilots and secret agents. Up until recently he was untouchable at the box office, delivering consistent profits for everyone. However perhaps his best roles have been those very few where he has pushed himself as an actor such as today's flick of the day, Jerry Maguire, a potent mixture of comedy, romance and the vacuous nature of the corporate world.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, a flick of the day favourite with Singles, Say Anything and the great  Almost Famous, this is a tale of a self centred sports agent, Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise, who having sold his soul decides to grow a heart with terrible consequences for his career. After writing a preaching memo about the future of his agency in the dead of night, he soon finds himself out of work, single and with a solitary client. This is the egotistical big mouth football star Rod Tidwell played by a career best Cuba Gooding Jr. In an oft parodied scene, he requests Jerry to show him the money. Jerry's only other support is an idealistic single mother Dorothy Boyd played by Renee Zellweger who follows Jerry out of the agency because she believes in him. Jerry has to try and put his life back together while doing the best for Rod and becoming romantically entangled with Dorothy. Along the way he learns how to be a better man then he ever was when on top of the world.
The real selling point for this movie is its heart. Jerry falls hard, his wife leaves him and his friends abandon him and it is only through this callous betrayal that he learns something about himself. It is an unusually nuanced performance from Cruise, giving Maguire a soulful edge. All round the cast is excellent though. Cuba Gooding Jr is as good as he has ever been as the always over the top Tidwell, the kind of irritating whiny professional sportsman we have becomes used to seeing. Zellweger makes the most of her girl next door role as the single mother who goes against her practical nature to help a man she believes in and harbours secret feelings for.

Jerry Maguire: I'm finished, I'm fucked. Twenty-four hours ago, man, I was hot! Now... I'm a cautionary tale. You see this jacket I'm wearing, you like it? Because I don't really need it. Because I'm cloaked in failure! I lost the number one draft picked the night before the draft! Why? Let's recap: Because a hockey player's kid made me feel like a superficial jerk. I ate two slices of bad pizza, went to bed and grew a conscience! 
 Rod Tidwell: Well, boo-fucking-hoo

Crowe's script perfectly juggles the different aspects of its story from the romance between Jerry and Dorothy to the drama of the ups and downs of professional football.
Special mention has to go to young Jonathan Lipnicki as Dorothy's son Ray. He steals almost all of the scenes he is in and there is a real spark to the conversations he has with a lonely Jerry. 

Jerry Maguire: The fuckin zoo is closed, Ray. 
Ray: You said fuck. 
Jerry Maguire: Uh... yeah... I... 
Ray: Don't worry. I won't tell.

As the film moves toward a feel good and heartfelt resolution, we are left with the believe that Jerry has learned to be a better person. After all, his only real crime was to tell the truth and look where it gets him. It's a telling example of how vicious the modern world is for the individual who steps out of the corporate line.

Ultimately, the film was a massive success for all involved giving Cuba Gooding Jr his only Oscar win and yet another nomination for Cruise. A fine film, it takes a different look at the world of professional sports and the lives of the people involved.  The ending is neither trite nor overly sentimental and it makes the best of its constituent parts. I define anyone not to find the final climax compelling viewing.

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