I went into this movie hopeful but not expecting too much, given the poor reviews I had seen for it. I walked out impressed and touched, surprised by how much I really enjoyed it, and wondering if other people would give it a chance and enjoy it, as well. Time will tell.

The things that I liked about this movie are easy to feel but not so easy to describe. There were moments that really got to me, bits of scenes that touched me and caught in my memory, and time and again I found myself nodding and smiling and thinking, “I know exactly how he feels,” or “I remember that feeling.” Somehow, this story was good in a different way than Garden State was good. I loved Garden State, and the plot of Elizabethtown is enough like Garden State that it was hard not to have it in mind when I sat down in the theatre, but the two movies are really quite different. Crowe’s Elizabethtown felt more real than Braf’s Garden State, and somewhat less contrived.

Elizabethtown is the kind of movie you should see on a sunny autumn afternoon after a walk with an old friend. It has a joy to it, a basic sense of optimism and a light touch, so that it never crossed the line from sadness into tragedy and melodrama. Crowe doesn’t let us fall into sentiment, but he deftly weaves a story that could have been corny and sentimental in lesser hands. I read critics who said he let the music play the emotions for us, but I can’t agree, because I think that the cast did an excellent job portraying people I could really feel for and with, especially Orlando Bloom.

Orlando Bloom’s Drew Baylor is introduced in a moment of pain and panic, utterly emotionally blocked, repeating “I’m fine” while feeling suicidal and saying “My condolences” to strangers and distant relatives as if the loss of his father belongs to them and not to him. In the film, he relaxes and grows emotionally under the tutelage of Kirsten Dunst’s Claire, and together they work their way through the American heartland into a tender relationship and a new perspective on the meaning and value of life and success. His American accent and her Southern drawl might both be a little off at times, but it was easy to forgive in the interest of watching what happened next.

From the side stories of the secondary characters (Susan Sarandon is delightful, as always, in a turn as a widow whose reaction to her husband’s death is to reach out and grab life with both hands) to the road trip into Americana, all the quirky little moments that felt real and sincere made this movie one that I enjoyed watching and will think about and remember. I hope you enjoy it, too!