So I finally got around to watching Elizabethtown. I had been hearing about this ever since, oh, last August, all about how Ryan Adams had a bunch of music in it, blah, blah, blah. And then I remembered in a flash of glee that my Uncle Dave used to be the big impressive principal at E-Town High School (as those of us in-the-know call it), so I was doubly excited.
Turns out my anticipation was for no good reason. The movie is tolerable, its salvation largely being the soundtrack, and also because Cameron Crowe just *knows* how to make a movie. I mean, all the elements are there – adversity of mythic proportions, family illness, quirky relatives, and even a perky love interest who shows no end to the depth of her random comments and bed-a-bility. What’s not to like? Well, the low point for me in the movie = Susan Sarandon tap dancing. Well, most of it was really speedy tap-dancing because it was on fast forward. Holy Moses. Did I mention it was at a memorial service? There was some poignant sighing in the crowd, some tears for the exuberant display of LIFE in the face of DEATH — aaaaand we’re done. No.
While most of the movie was drivel, and even a little annoying (his sister in the film was unworthy of the name Heather because she bugged the crap out of me), the best part of the movie was absolutely the last 20 minutes where lead guy sets out on a roadtrip with many CD mixes made by aforementioned perky love interest girl to accompany his every vista and curve in the road. Also included with the CDs is a heavy-handed and, let’s face it, unrealistic handmade “roadmap”/scrapbook that I kept thinking she would have NO time to make, what with the rigors of flight attending, talking to lead guy on the phone at all hours of the night, painting her toenails, apparently knitting her own hats, and just generally being adorable (which is hard work, let me tell you).
But what this roadtrip was really about for me was the glimpse it offered into the always fascinating musical mind of Cameron Crowe, who undoubtedly is THE best soundtracker in the known world. One reviewer referred to it as “Crowe’s gold-standard back catalog tastes,” and that is exactly what he has. I want to be his friend so we can ride around in his car and listen to his iPod on random. That would be fun.
The best part about the last 20 minutes was not just hearing Crowe’s mixes and feeling the flow, but also seeing what images he chose to juxtapose alongside those songs. It tapped into my unfulfilled dormant desire to have an epic road trip with The Perfect Soundtrack to accompany all the amazing things I was seeing. Like I’ve said before, I wish my life had a soundtrack. This is pretty close. Here are a few gems I enjoyed, either played or mentioned in that poetic and sprawling segment:
That’s Life – James Brown
(first song of the journey – I love how it starts out with the trademark James Brown “Hey!” and then a little “Unh!” and a “One more for the road!“)
Don’t I Hold You – Wheat
(“Some music just needs air. Roll down your windows.”)
Words – Ryan Adams
(right after lead guy drives across the Mississippi and there is a mention of Jeff Buckley. Also notable is the use of ‘English Girls Approximately’ at the Farmer’s Market – I absolutely LOVE that song and was stoked to hear it in a movie)
Sugar Blue – Jeff Finlin
(singin’ about stuff like the “raven’s song that breaks the night” – lovely and rough-sounding)
Salvador Sanchez – Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon
(scrawled in the scrapbook list of songs, but I don’t think it was played in the movie itself?)
Now where are my car keys?