Jerry Maguire (1996) Directed by Cameron Crowe. With Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kelly Preston and Bonnie Hunt.
The landscape of the romantic comedy is vast and littered with frothy star-vehicles that aim to hook you with their light-hearted, free n’ easy watch-ability. Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston have all leant on each other – à la Pretty Woman – starring in films that you’ve forgotten almost as soon as the credits have rolled. It would seem a good romantic comedy is the exception rather than the rule.
There are many things that set this film aside from the usual humdrum – first of all it has a winning script. Secondly, it has director Cameron Crowe, literally hitting his sweet-spot right on cue. Last but not least, it sports three fantastic performances and possibly the sweetest, most irresistible kid ever put on screen.
In the title role of sports agent Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise channels every ounce of his movie star charisma, showcasing a dramatic and comic talent that is often overlooked. His performance is both memorable and thoroughly entertaining and is offset brilliantly by Cuba Gooding Jnrs Oscar-wining supporting turn and Renee Zellweger’s ‘everygirl’ next door, pre-Bridget Jones charm.
For its genre, the structure of the film is straight-up and by-the-numbers, which for me, all the more underlines my belief that if you spend a little time developing and creating characters that resonate in the right way, you can produce a romantic comedy that doesn’t simply rely on concept and star names to sell itself. Sure, Jerry Maguire lays on the cheese, but everything here is so well delivered that it’s mostly earned and never feels over-egged.
As with any ‘romcom’ (and Cameron Crowe film for that matter), the soundtrack plays a key role. Songs by folk and rock legends like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and most notably Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Secret Garden’, pop-up to add welcome atmosphere to key dramatic moments. In short, it’s a cold, hard heart that spends much time dwelling on the negatives of such an infectiously positive film. It has moments that have become iconic – and it is that rare thing, an American rom-com with heart beyond its running time. 5/5