Jerry Maguire (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If I were an actor, I'd work for Cameron Crowe for free. The people in his films have never looked better or acted better at any time. Take this film: Renee Zellweger, Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding - all three delivered performances that would not have been predictable from their previous careers, and have never since been duplicated. Cruise got an Oscar nod for Magnolia, and he was impressive in that, but that role was only one the very far extremes of the emotional spectrum. He was cynical and aloof, then all of a sudden he broke down into tears. In this movie, he hit some extremes, but he covered all the shades and nuances in between. More important, there was no technique on display, no rhetorical flourishes. He was human and natural. As for Zellweger, Crowe made the camera bathe her in love, and drew genuine expressiveness from her.

Crowe is so good with actors that in Almost Famous he almost made Jason Lee not totally suck!  Jeez, I wonder what Crowe could do with Anna Nicole Smith.

This is a helluva good movie. It isn't new wave or hip or intellectual. It is a good movie in the sense that Billy Wilder made good movies for Bill Holden and Jack Lemmon, filled with people of flesh and marrow, learning something about life in an interesting context. Jimmy Stewart could come back as a young man and step right into Crowe's movies.

Tom Cruise fits somewhere in between, developing his own niche, not quite as ruggedly masculine as Holden, but more sexually charismatic than Lemmon or Stewart. 

The basic premise is that a wheeler-dealer sports agent without a sincere bone in his body hates what he has become as a person, has a revelation, and transforms himself into an independent full-service agent with a hands-on approach.  After a few twists and turns, he ends up with only one client willing to bet on him - a feisty, cocky undersized wide receiver with a reputation as clubhouse trouble.

Each helps the other become better at what he does and at what he wants to become. 


Kelly Preston had a dark sex scene with Cruise, and her breasts were seen from the side. She also sat naked with him at a table, beautifully framed, but very little actually showing.

Tom Cruise showed his buns while getting out of Zellweger's bed, and was naked from the side in the table scene. 

Cuba Gooding showed his buns in a locker room scene.

Two or three other male athletes were seen naked in locker room scenes.

 Some reviewers wrote this up as a romantic comedy, but I don't buy that. The love between Zellweger and Cruise wasn't the most important part of the film at all. If it is a love story, it is about the love between the agent and his renegade client, how they broke through each other's barriers and changed one another. Cruise is eventually able to love Zellweger simply because he learns to stop thinking about himself.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • A lovely widescreen anamorphic print, 1.85:1

  • but absolutely nothing else

But no matter how you classify the film, it is a good one about people learning to be people of substance. Apparently, Crowe heard that phrase from his mom (McDormand says it to Crudup in Almost Famous), and it stuck with him. Both Cruise and Gooding need to cast aside the things that keep them from becoming the men of substance they are capable of becoming.

If their ultimate success is a little too pat, and the emotions a bit too manipulated, the journey there is honest enough to redeem the film completely. As usual with Crowe, the script is full of real people doing real things and saying interesting things to each other. As in Almost Famous, Crowe shows the struggle to hold on to one's values in the middle of big-time fame polluted by big-time money.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: nearly three and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Maltin 3.5/4 .

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.3, 
  • With their dollars ... a monster hit - $150 million in domestic gross alone. With overseas, rentals, sales, and broadcast, it returned a mammoth profit on its $50 million budget, and showed investors the money..
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

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