19 October, 2005

Nobility in Elizabethtown

“ . . . the idea of nobility is inseparable from the idea of tragedy, which cannot exist without it. If tragedy is not the imitation or even the modified representation of noble actions it is certainly a representation of actions considered as noble, and herein lies its essential nature, since no man can conceive it unless he is capable of believing in the greatness and importance of man . . . We no longer tell tales of the fall of noble men because we do not believe that noble men exist. The best that we can achieve is pathos and the most that we can do is to feel sorry for ourselves. . . . But a Tragedy, Divine or otherwise, must, it may again be repeated, have a hero, and from the universe as we see it both the Glory of God and the Glory of Man have departed.”
~ Joseph Wood Krutch, The Modern Temper, “The Tragic Fallacy”

    Elizabethtown, while not a tragedy, brings back this long-forgotten idea of noble man. The idea that men aren’t just some lowly creatures and equal to all other animals, but a higher order, created in the image of the Almighty God and therefore inherently noble. Yes, men tend to shun this nobility, but it is in all of us and it is this inherent nobility, rejected and found again, that Cameron Crowe weaves throughout his film.
    We begin with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), a young, fast-climbing shoe designer obsessed, like the rest of America, with success. When his apparent success spirals down first to failure and then fiasco, he becomes lost. He had cast nobility aside to pursue success and failed. Without the nobility he rejected and the success he strove for, Drew has nothing, so he decides to kill himself. But then his sister calls with news of their father’s death and he has to put off his suicide until he can tie up the loose ends.
    What follows is the gradual awakening of nobility in Drew. In flight attendant Claire, Drew finds something he never knew could be so wonderful: the nobility he has rejected. Claire – with the aid of many intriguing characters – helps Drew understand that his life is meaningful . . . important even.
    The film doesn’t tell us what it is that makes Drew’s life meaningful or important, but that’s its beauty. A film that can come to one conclusion and one conclusion only, is not a good film.
    This is a good film. It’s not a film you go to in order to sit idly back in your seat as your brain mindlessly soaks up the words. You have to engage with this film. You have to work to understand the characters and why they say things. What those looks mean. But enjoy yourself. It is a movie, after all.

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