movie film review | chris tookey

Jerry Maguire

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  Jerry Maguire Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
7.28 /10
Jerry Maguire ........... Tom Cruise , Rod Tidwell ............. Cuba Gooding Jr. , Dorothy Boyd ............ Renee Zellweger
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Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Written by: Cameron Crowe

Released: 1996
Origin: US
Length: 135


Redemption of a sports agent.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a master of his own particular universe. He’s a top sports agent, a ruthless hustler with a seductive smile and no time for intimacy or family. He has a gorgeous, sexy fiancee (Kelly Preston) who is even harder than he is. Jerry subscribes to the tough-guy philosophy expounded by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, that “greed is good”. He adds to this a scary degree of personal commitment. “I will kill for you, I will maim for you!” he roars down the phone at clients. “I will rape and pillage for you!” Jerry is, in short, a nasty, glib, superficial jerk.
Then, in a lonely hotel room, he has a long, darkish night of the soul and pens a memo to his colleagues at Sports Management International, about the need to be kinder, more caring, less obsessed with making money. It’s such a grand, moralising document that Jerry doesn’t even call it a memo: it’s a “mission statement”.
The next day, his colleagues applaud the height and breadth of his vision, smile encouragingly, and predict behind his back that he’ll be fired within a week. Sure enough, he’s axed by a young turk (Jay Mohr) who’s learnt his callous methods from the old Jerry - including the idea of firing him in a crowded restaurant, where he won’t make too much of a scene.
Jerry’s insincere loyalty to his clients is duly repaid, when all but one leave him. The one who doesn’t is his most hopeless, least idealistic client: a black American football-player called Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr). Rod is nearing the end of his career, and has “attitude problems” which make him unpopular with fellow-players and spectators alike. Rod’s wife (Regina King) is even greedier for instant cash. “Show me the money!” is their catch-phrase.
The one bright spot on Jerry’s horizon, and the only employee of the sports agency who’s loyal to him, is Dorothy (Renee Zellweger) an accountant who’s a single mother of a cute five year-old (Jonathan Lipnicki). She admires Jerry’s memo and the way he’s trying to turn his life around: “I love him for the man he almost is,” she confides to her co-habiting sister (Bonnie Hunt), who’s divorced, cynical and runs a self-help group for women who have been through lots of relationships with creeps like Jerry.
Cameron Crowe’s Oscar-nominated comedy is a strange film, and some people won’t like it at all. It’s over two hours - long for a romantic comedy - and Crowe crams in so much incidental detail that the shape of the central love story sometimes gets lost. The characters lack the instant likeability of those in Crowe’s best movie, the underrated Singles.
A lot of people will sit through the satirical, early scenes and expect Crowe to make an overt, anti-Capitalist statement. But although the film captures more cleverly than any recent film the ruthlessness of corporate America, he doesn’t condemn it out of hand. Crowe doesn’t like the hypocrisy of the people who stab Jerry in the back, but he accepts it as a fact of life. How could he not? Hollywood is full of it.
Many British people may find it hard to believe that people as awful as Jerry and his colleagues exist; but they do, and Crowe knows that they are part of the reason why America has a successful economy. Jerry doesn’t whinge when he’s branded a loser, nor does he start campaigning for higher welfare benefits. He fights back - and makes himself a better person, in doing so.
This is all very American, very “can-do”, and it will put many non-American people’s teeth on edge. But Crowe slips in a subtle point: that business success and failure owe as much to luck, as they do to skill and determination. The plot turns upon an accident to Jerry’s one and only client, and for several moments the fate of everybody we care about in the movie is beyond anyone’s control, including Jerry’s. It’s a reminder of how cruel and arbitrary jungle capitalism can be.
Tom Cruise moves through the film at hurricane force. Watching him here in his finest performance, you can realise why the word “star” is appropriate about some actors: he radiates a superhuman energy.
Most good screen actors thrive by having faces which show every emotion. Cruise is more physical, using his whole body like the old silent comedians, and his face here is a series of dazzling masks. It’s fascinating to watch them gradually being peeled away, to reveal first a wistful vulnerability, then a fearful reserve, and finally a dawning emotional maturity.
It’s a sensational piece of acting, and Crowe surrounds Cruise with enjoyable and unpredictable subsidiary characters. Cuba Gooding Jr is the only other actor to be rewarded with an Oscar nomination, but there are lovely performances from Renee Zellweger, Jonathan Lipnicki as her small son, and Bonnie Hunt as the kind of aggressively frank woman who prefaces her most cutting remarks with “I’m not going to say anything...”
Parts of the movie smack of conventional, cute comedy; but Crowe - who used to be a reporter on Rolling Stone magazine - retains a journalistic eye, and much of the talk and observation feels first-hand, not filtered through other movies. Crowe shows the world of businessmen with a clear-sighted attitude to what’s right, as well as wrong, with them; he is both affectionate towards agents and appalled by them, much as Howard Hawks was by journalists in His Girl Friday, or Budd Schulberg was by producers in his great novel about Hollywood, What Makes Sammy Run?
It is that unresolved tension between cynicism and sentiment that makes Jerry Maguire a landmark picture about money and masculinity, not just another lightweight romance from Tinseltown.

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