Quick Hit: Who doesn’t want a love like Dorothy and Jerry?
Haven’t I mentioned before that Tom Cruise has charm in spades? And, before she mangled her face with plastic surgery, Renee Zellweger had an earnest sincerity in just about every role she took. So, now that we’re into 90s week (1996 – to be exact), let’s dive into one of the classics of the decade – Jerry Maguire.
For those of you that don’t know it, Jerry Maguire is a film that follows a sports agent (the aforementioned Maguire, played by Cruise), who miraculously grows a conscience, and the girl (Ms. Zellweger) who works in the same office that falls in love with him. Jerry ends up down to his last client (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Arizona Cardinals receiver Rod Tidwell, who has a career riding on his performance. The film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo).
The film is a little bit cheesy now – but I can’t help but love it anyway. Who hasn’t had a moment of intense clarity in a hotel room alone? Travel does that to a man – and a lot of times, I think those ideas might be best left alone. In Jerry’s case though, it is for the best, and Cruise is terrific at selling the man experiencing a complete moral compass flip. His Jerry begins the movie all the things most movies sell us – famous, rich, dating a beautiful woman – but he isn’t happy with how he got there. While movies have been selling the reverse rags to riches for a while, the cheesy cliché still feels fresh someone.
I think Zellweger’s mousy Dorothy is the same way. Though her son Ray is so cute he borders on annoying, and her sister (Bonnie Hunt – terrific) is a wilting divorcee, Dorothy manages to hold on to the dream that someday she’ll find a man to replace her dead husband. Her belief in both a “happily ever after” and a man like Jerry is extremely refreshing, and her willingness to do what it takes to be happy is as well. Cruise and Zellweger’s chemistry is tangible throughout, leading to one of the best emotionally charged scenes of the decade.
But the true standout is Gooding Jr., who makes Tidwell one of the most believable characters of the movie. Tidwell is both ashamed of his situation and proud of it, and is so fervently loyal to his family that he’ll do anything to protect them. He toes the vicious line between being greedy and being a provider, and so the payoff with the final push of his season is believable. Cruise also works into a position of good chemistry with him, selling the other players reactions as well too. If anything, this may lead to a scene that has even more emotion than the famous “You complete me” scene – whoever doesn’t get a little touched when he walks out of the locker room is short a bit of emotional strength.
The movie does have a few miscues, particularly the middle act, which finds Jerry placing his relationship with Dorothy as a token to move his life forward again. That may be a personal criticism, but I think the movie slows down a bit as it moves to the finale. But overall the script is strong, and carries it forward to a satisfactory ending.
So, in all, I’m giving the film a “B+”. Welcome to the nineties ya’ll.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"