Monday, October 17, 2005


I saw Elizabethtown this weekend, to which I had looked forward despite all the warning signs. I found myself not particularly disappointed in it, which is not the same thing as a recommendation, I realize. When I discussed it with my daughter, who'd been similarly looking forward to it, I told her that it was flawed--there were several critical things that appeared to have gone missing, such as scenes that helped us to see the main character's removal from his family, his mother's grief, and so forth. It gave a feeling of being simultaneously too long and incomplete. I found myself knowing this, knowing it aloud as I was watching it (sotto voce, of course, I'm not a barbarian!), even. Yet I enjoyed the film, found myself feeling it getting better as it gathered toward its ending. As we walked out of the theater, my husband and I agreed--the flaws were evident, yet we felt somehow satisfied by it even so.

The question is, why are some kinds of flaws sort of endearing, or at least endurable, and other flaws are the deal-breakers? For instance, I will never go to a movie again (the kind of remark destined to be contradicted within weeks, no doubt) in which stuff explodes in great sheets of flame while someone walks away from the conflagration in slow motion. Extra points off if there's loud cinematic music swelling.

I'm sure that I could probably systematize this--figure out what makes certain flaws bearable, even charming, and others annoying or even infuriating. In this case, I'm prepared to like Cameron Crowe's films (although, sadly, not Vanilla Sky), because I loved Say Anything, and I loved Almost Famous even more. (Side note: the kid in Almost Famous, aka Cameron Crowe, could practically have been me--CC was in high school at the same time as me, in a SoCal high school. My kids even think that the kid, whom they now refer to as "Almost Famous," looks like I did in HS. If you look at the correct HS picture, they're right--I think we even had the same hair cut.) So I'll allow all the flaws of Elizabethtown because Almost Famous went to my high school? --or something like that.

A short list of people whose flaws I am prepared to indulge--for now, at least:
  • Wes Anderson's, whose The Life Aquatic may be deeply flawed, but stuff made me laugh in it, anyhow, especially upon the second viewing;
  • Bill Murray's, whose range may in fact be limited, as critics charge, but whose melancholy gets me more than anybody's;
  • Joni Mitchell's, who may have turned into the biggest crank in all of popular music, but she is, after all, Joni;
  • Don DeLillo's, because of Underworld;
  • Anne Carson's--actually, what other people see as her flaws, I see as her virtues.


  1. I too saw Elizabethtown last weekend, but I was not able to forgive. I thought the first third of it was excellent, perfect almost, and then it went downhill starting from the long phone converstation. I was enraged by the time the movie finished. I think I was so enraged because there were so many great little moments in the film and it could have been a wonderful little movie. Crowe usually handles cheese and sentiment pretty well, I think, and I'll accept it from him where I won't from others. But this movie was the only movie of Crowe's where I said "The perpetually in-touch Cameron Crowe is way out of touch on this one." Horrible disgusting and awful. Kirsten Dunst is even more annoying than usual and I wanted to punch Orlando Bloom in the face, especially when he was dancing alone with one foot and one arm up in the air in a leaf-strewn road in the middle of nowhere. What crap. All the characters do is coo and smile at each other. But the first third is excellent.

    For me, any movie that has black and white titles that dissolve into red is going to be a terrible movie. The Secret Window has black and white titles that dissolve into red AS they advance toward the viewer! Needless to say it was horrible.

  2. I will not admit to the fact that anything involved or approximate to Anne Carson can be said to be "flawed." In any case, I too forgive Bill Murray anything and everything. I have not yet reached this point in my relationship with Wes Anderson. I think Owen Wilson may be included in my "flawed, but what the hell" list. And Mark Ruffalo is, but I'm not sure why. I think I could learn to dislike him, but I don't. Not yet. I think I already dislike Bloom, so I may take a pass on E-Town. Besides, I may not be able to watch anymore movies that don't have Frances McDormand in them. I mean, why bother? (I'm kidding of course, but only a little.)

  3. Not to get too highbrow here, but I think some of my favorite poetry is flawed. Poets, in particular, are susceptible to the idea of the perfect text (the perfect little lyric poem, where every word counts for something). This is why I'm increasingly drawn to poets like Campbell McGrath. There's a sloppiness that feels less precious, more authentic. That said, the poetry of Yeats is perfect.



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