Skip to main content

Okay, just jump right into my nightmare, the water is warm.

Jerry Maguire 

(SPOILERS) I didn’t much like Jerry Maguire at the time, which I suspect is intrinsically linked to the fact that I didn’t much like Tom Cruise at the time. I’m still not really a massive fan of either, but the latter at least made an effort to rein in his most irksome traits subsequently. Jerry Maguire, however, finds him drawing on the same “bag of tricks” that mystifyingly transfixed his fan base a decade before in Top Gun. Bonnie Hunt suggested the toughest part of the role was “playing a character that doesn’t like Tom Cruise”. I wouldn’t have had that problem. I do not like Tom and Jerry.

Which is evidently not the prescribed response and not the one presumably millions had, responding to – in the manner of swooning Renée Zellweger’s “You had me at hello” – Jerry’s charms. Obviously, Jerry’s supposed to be a difficult character. Cameron Crowe has honed his screenplay, for better or worse, into a wealth of calculated manipulations, and he drags Jerry along a growth arc that duly detonates on the desired spots. What could be better than going from nothing to something? Why, only going from something to nothing and back to something, that’s what.

So Jerry, following his epiphany that he is a cocksure user – “Who had I become? Just another shark in a suit?” – smarming his way through his career at the expense of his clients’ mental and physical health – completely unlike Tom the star – writes a memo, I mean mission statement, in favour of a more caring, sharing sports agency. One that elicits a round of applause, shortly followed by the sack. Thus Jerry, down at heel, becomes a cocksure user of exactly one client, Cuba Gooding Jr’s Rod Tidwell. But never fear, he is devotedly supported by Dorothy Boyd (Zellweger), since she’s smitten with his memo and his golden grin. How could she not be?

Being that I find Cruise, as I noted, insufferable here, when I’m presuming you’re supposed to sympathise or at least empathise with Jerry – only the dependable Jay Mohr can out-ooze the Cruise – it’s difficult to climb on board with his emotional evolution. Which anyway is rather erratic. Crowe writes Dorothy as an emotionally aware doormat who makes continued excuses for Jerry being a dick (she shouldn’t have taken advantage of him when he was vulnerable and forced him into a situation where he felt he needed to do the right thing and marry her. What?) The idea of a man marrying a woman for the kid is an unusual one in movies, and the stuff more generally of suspicion that warming cockles. But Crowe pulls that off, helped in no small part by Cruise and Jonathan Lipnicki (as pint-sized Ray) getting on like a house on fire (even Cruise can’t continue to act the Cruise when he’s opposite a disarming kid).

And the relationship with Rod works for the most part too, since both Jerry and Rod have their growing to do, both are rather over the top and self-regarding, and the bromance crests amusingly (“Why don’t we have that kind of relationship?”). It helps that Gooding Jr takes a gift of a part and sprints with it, making his Oscar entirely understandable. The drop off in decent roles was alarming, but not that uncommon in BSA winners (particularly the actresses). Now, however, he’s likely to be remembered not only for “Show me the money” but also the shower of #MeToo allegations piling up. On Jerry’s side of the equation, you have to wonder, if he really cared, would he still be an agent in football?

The sports agent side sort of writes itself and gives a slew of ready-purposed types who look so much worse than Jerry, starting with Beau Bridges and his promise (“And its stronger than oak”). On the relationship side, Crowe throws in some unconvincing slapstick (Kelly Preston as Jerry’s ex knocks him on his ass). There’s a divorce group meeting in Dorothy and her sister Laurel’s (Bonnie Hunt) house that suggests Crowe has been taking notes from When Harry Met Sally’s “Greek chorus” commentary.

Jerry’s marriage proposal admittedly sends the picture on a different-to-usual route (albeit, in the dramatic-romantic conflict realm, union-then-parting-the-reunion is part of the basic deal), but the key to this is believing in Jerry’s realisation that he does love Dorothy, and I don’t believe it. I believe Zellweger believes Dorothy believes it, and she does a commendable and unenviable job selling the movie’s romantic sincerity when her co-star is screaming “Fake!” (I’ve never been a great Renée fan either, but rewatching this, I feel I may have misjudged her, if only on this occasion).

Tom, though, is about as sincere as his couchburst almost a decade later. Swallowing the movie’s message isn’t helped any by Crowe either, who loves laying it on with a trowel. He’ll underline in indelible marker every emotional cue (see how unhappy Jerry is in the wedding video!) And he has a music track for every occasion, often ones designed to overwhelm the picture, rather than simply complete it. He nurses an essentially sunny disposish, somewhere between a John Hughes for adults and a Joss Whedon for musos, rather than movie heads. He creates fantasy worlds, which is fine (or not so much, judging by the receptions of Elizabethtown and Aloha), but that means the casting has to click or the sugary dream in a cloud of choking aspartame.

Which isn’t to say a less aspirational ride would have been the way to go. I don’t think Janeane Garofalo would have worked – too pithy – and definitely not Edward Burns – too lacking in an iota of charisma – but Jerry tests your Tom tolerance levels to the max. He’s basically Maverick redux.

Jerry Maguire’s deep vein of horrific sentiment/melodrama was obviously a rich seam, since Titanic surfaced the following year and did win the Oscar. If the picture’s presence in the race was completely out of place, it’s also merely part of the Academy’s history of recognising crowd pleasers to boost the ratings, something that has largely been forgotten in recent years. Regina King has obviously moved on some since 1996, now getting to hold forth wokely at the big event. Perhaps the most surprising thing here is that Janus Kamiński’s cinematography is mostly… fine? There are a couple of very blue scenes, but you might mistakenly conclude he was just a normal DP, not someone who’d lead the charge in the desecration of the visual arts over the next quarter of a century.

Jerry Maguire doesn’t do much for me, then. It certainly doesn’t complete me. It still visibly boasts those catchy lines and slickly sculpted highs and lows, but to repeat my mantra: to like Jerry Maguire you really have to like Tom Cruise.

Popular posts from this blog

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction ’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump . And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.