Just another shark in a suit…but with a heart.
As a serious film fan, I've got to admit that I'm more than a bit ambivalent about Tom Cruise. Certainly this is not because he's a millionaire studbolt adored by scads of teenage females. I'm mean, that's probably really a big burden, right? Right? Okay, so its probably my wildest drug induced fantasy, but I'm okay with that. I'm a small man, a little man, resigned to just chipping away at edges of the self esteem of those I envy, and my socio-monetary remuneration reflects that. But its not about me, even though it should be, its about Tom.
I don't think that anyone doubts that Mr. Cruise can be a good leading man for a romantic popcorn flick, a la Mission Impossible or Days of Thunder. But, can he really act, play a real human role, and spill his guts on the screen for everyone to see? If it weren't for this film, I'd say no, he cannot. But, for whatever reason, he got talked into doing Jerry Maguire and I feel that it's far and away his most human and most open piece of work to date. Of course he really laid it out on Born on the Fourth of July, which I loved. But that role wasn't exactly what I would call a subtle piece.
I won't share my feelings about the fact that he's doing Mission Impossible 2…though I'll probably grab my popcorn, crank up the system to THX levels, and watch it like everyone else.
Jerry Maguire, played surprisingly enough by Tom Cruise (Eyes Wide Shut, Born on the Fourth of July, Rain Man), is living the dream life of those guys who never really in their hearts left the frat house. He is a successful sports agent, working for a company called Sports Management International, which he helped build up into a successful business. He hangs with the sports stars, makes the big bucks, and has a high maintenance power-nympho fiancé that most men would kill for. All he has to do is keep smiling and slapping backs, and he'll probably be able to coast to the promised land out of sheer inertia.
But, that would make for a pretty dull movie wouldn't it? But worry not, Jerry has an epiphany. No, that isn't a colon related procedure. An epiphany is a flash of deep realization that often changes one's life. In Jerry's case, this shaft of light is slow to illuminate because he's the kind of guy who is good at ignoring the pain around him. But it eventually begins to dawn on him that sports is out of control, with too much money, sex, drugs, influence peddling, and politics. So, one night at a convention, after some bad pizza and too much booze, he finally cracks and writes a 'mission statement' for the company that says they should be more personal, less predatory, less greedy, and so on.
As you might expect, such pinko-communist ideas cannot be tolerated in a society based on screwing others before they screw unto you, so Jerry gets the axe. And, to make it worse, he looses all but one of his clients. It turns out that one of the younger sharks has been whispering into the ears of his stars and starlets and telling them Jerry is melting down. In a particularly embarrassing scene, Jerry departs the company after his unexpected dismissal and only one person will come with him, Dorothy Boyd played by Renee Zellweger (Empire Records, Reality Bites, One True Thing). Together, Jerry and Dorothy go out on their own, with their one not so big star, to create a new management company.
Their one not so big star is Rod Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding, Jr (What Dreams May Come, The Tuskegee Airmen, Boyz N the Hood). Rod is the polar opposite of Jerry. Jerry is great at slapping backs in a crowd, but completely unable to show intimacy. Rod is a great husband and father, full of joy and emotion. But he is completely unable to be himself on the field or with the public. Jerry's limitations are destroying his new marriage with Dorothy, while Rod's limitations are preventing him from getting the kind of attention and payday that he deserves. This type of theme runs through the film, with the phrase 'you complete me' coming up in a number of places.
I have to say that I love this film. There are those pieces that just have a sense of human scale intimacy about them that I find incredibly winning, and this film has lots of that. Everything revolves tightly around the small personal triumphs and failures of the characters. And, in that intimate setting, the humor and pain of their lives seems very real and very sympathetic, and often extremely funny.
And there is quite a lot of humor, but its never loud or in your face. Its the kind of humor that flows naturally out of the silliness and the embarrassments of real life. And all of the characters definitely have their weaknesses, to provide plenty of fodder for the humor mill. Dorothy's older sister Laurel Boyd, played by Bonnie Hunt (Jumanji, The Green Mile, A Bug's Life), in particular is really hilarious. She has some of the best lines I've heard in a long time. The relationship between the two sisters provides a lot of the pathos as well as the humor of the story. Dorothy is a divorced single mother, and Laurel is worried that she is basically tying herself to a sinking man.
The acting is pretty good all around. Renee Zellweger is slightly out of her league here perhaps, since she hadn't done a lot of work before this big role. But she is just so sweet and loveable, and her character so sympathetic and funny, that I'm not complaining. Also, this is one of those 'kinda in reality' films where some actual sports stars are scattered throughout the film, and occasionally try to do a little acting. That isn't what they get paid for, so I shouldn't whine; but, sometimes having 'real' people in a film just makes it seem less realistic to me.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic video is mostly good, though weak in places. This is a 1997 disc, so it was an early entry into the DVD race. Perhaps that explains some of the video flaws, though I have to give a gold star to Columbia/Tristar for giving even this early effort the anamorphic treatment. When it looks good, it looks pretty darned nice. But it occasionally gets soft and a bit noisy on my system anyway.
The audio is standard 2.0 Dolby. It didn't have any glaring flaws that I noticed particularly, and the dialogue was easily understandable. Of course we would have preferred that it were 5.1, but we can't have everything can we? I'll settle for just the high maintenance power-nympho fiancé myself.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As mentioned, the video is a bit weak on this disc. Though it is anamorphic, it is one of the earlier releases and it does show. Its not always bad, but it gets soft and noisy in places.
The audio is just plain on Dolby Surround. Given that there lots of crowd scenes and a good bit of on the field sports action, a 5.1 track could have certainly been justified in my opinion, even though it is otherwise a talkie.
There aren't any extras at all. Back then, all of the Columbia Tristar disc seemed to have that bare bones menu screen, with the same three selections to play, pick a chapter, and set the language options. That's unfortunate since this one will probably never get a 'special edition' release in the future.
I think that this film should have done even better than it did. It got five Oscar nominations, but it really didn't get as much buzz in the general viewing public as I thought it deserved. Its one of those films that works great both as a guy flick and a chick flick, which is pretty rare. Its very funny, has a lot of heart, and also has that laughing and crying at the same time thing that makes for a nice viewing experience. That's a pretty winning combination to me. It makes no bones about the fact that its light entertainment, but if more light entertainment was this engaging, I wouldn't be such a snobby film elitist.
Acquitted for being only human.
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