[Fresh on Blu-ray] Paramount the season of love with ‘ELIZABETHTOWN’ and ‘LOVE STORY’

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James Clay // Film Critic

Rated PG-13, 123 minutes.
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst

Cameron Crowe’s musing on grief and music ELIZABETHTOWN is a simple story that provides ordinary catharsis in the shape of big cinematic emotions. Films that lack cynicism don’t always go over well with Crowe’s audience. Yet, Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst’s unconventional leads provide an escape, a place for romantics to let their guard down. This is a film about taking the time to learn to love yourself before moving on to the next phase of your life. These big moments usually don’t get much lip service in today’s cinematic landscape, yet Crowe made an earnest film that’s flawed yet profound 16 years after it hit theaters.

Drew Baylor’s (Orlando Bloom) high profile job as a shoe designer just cost his company south of a billion dollars. He’s the kind of guy who has run from his past and puts value on his self-worth based on status, significant other (Jessica Biel), and dollar signs. On the verge of an incredibly comical and ingenious/gruesome suicide attempt, Drew finds out his estranged father has dropped dead, and he needs to head East to pay his respects. What Drew finds is a potential love interest in a puckish flight attendant Claire Colburn (in an indelibly strange performance from Kirsten Dunst), and a chance at personal redemption he has buried deep for decades.

Bloom and Dunst are an odd pairing together on screen. While it doesn’t immediately signal sparks to fly, Crowe finds strange little moments between the two that cause their banter to blossom into something quirky if not undeniable. From taking fake pictures to capture a special moment or dancing with one fist-pumping in the air, ELIZABETHTOWN shows that part of loving yourself and others is embracing your faults. The biggest takeaway is music can heal your soul. It may be cliche, but it’s true.

Rent or Buy? ELIZABETHTOWN is one of the first films in the Paramount Presents line packed full of features — including their signature Filmmaker Focus with director Cameron Crowe and retro featurettes that hold up to this day. Given this is the first time the film has been released on Blu-ray, it’s a must-own with prestige packaging.

Special Features:

  • Filmmaker Focus with Cameron Crowe
  • Deleted Scenes with Intros from Crowe
  • On The Road to Elizabethtown
  • Meet The Crew
  • Original Slipcover Artwork
  • Alternate artwork inside

Rated PG, 100 minutes.
Director: Arthur Hiller
Cast: Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’ Neal, Ray Milland

LOVE STORY is the film that, by and large, saved Paramount Studios as the age of free love dissolved into movies that (started) to rebel against the status quo. Arthur Hiller’s film was the most successful film of 1970, and it made its relatively unknown stars, Ryan O’ Neal and All MacGraw, marquee names. While the film has a fascinating place in film history, this toothless romance fumbles its romance, offers up guileless dialogue, and really has nothing to say about modern society.

But that’s not really what now storied studio head Robert Evans was going for. He wanted to put butts in seats and offer his audience a chance to escape into tragedy. (He also wanted to make his new wife, Ali McGraw, a household name.)

The story is simple: Harvard law student Oliver Barrett IV (O’Neal) comes from a lineage of old money, but he wants to make a name for himself. He quickly meets a plucky working-class classical music scholar named Jennifer (MacGraw), and the two fall in love. This comes much to his father’s chagrin (Ray Milland in a quality performance), who cuts off his son financially. The star-crossed lovers, against all odds, form a bond that cannot be broken until tragedy strikes.

Hiller was not known to put a lot of subtext in his films. His goal was to please the audience and make his two stars as gorgeous as possible. This was maligned to the point where Roger Ebert coined the term “Ali MacGraw’s disease,” which teases films when ailing characters only get more attractive the closer they get to the light at the end of the tunnel.

This wildly improbable and hokey Hallmark card offers nothing prescient in dissecting love or loss, but it does have an Oscar-winning score by Frances Lai that swoons.

Rent or Buy? While this is a landmark film in the history of the studio, it hasn’t aged well. Unfortunately, this is one collector’s edition you should skip, especially if you don’t already have an affinity for the film. However, the two featurettes on the disc are relatively candid, and Hiller tells some juicy stories along the way. 

Special Features:

  • Commentary by director Arthur Hiller
  • Turner Classic Movies intro by Ben Mankiewicz 
  • Love Story: A Classic Remembered
  • Alternate Artwork
  • Original Slipcase Artwork

ELIZABETHTOWN and LOVE STORY are now available on disc. Paramount Presents titles can be purchased at all major online retailers.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.