1996 / Best Actor / Best Picture / Best Supporting Actor

Film #401: Jerry Maguire (1996)

Four years after A Few Good Men, Cruise appeared in his final Best Picture nominee where he once again starred in a dialogue-heavy feature. This time he played the titular sports agent in Jerry Maguire a film that was both written and directed by Cameron Crowe.

Initially portrayed as a cynical sports agent, Maguire develops a conscience and writes a mission statement condemning a lot of the immoral means that agents go through to secure clients. His words eventually get him fired from his agency and he later breaks up with his fiancée leaving him with few people to count on. The film focuses on Jerry’s two major relationships after his firing the first being with his only client, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell. I personally think that Jerry’s friendship with Rod is the more compelling of the two relationships as it is their mutual respect that ultimately changes the protagonist’s view of his job. Jerry’s fear over Rod’s potential injury at a game was the film’s most emotional moment and it was followed by a moving embrace between the two men. I was therefore less interested in Jerry’s relationship with single mother Dorothy Boyd, the only person from his old firm who agrees to join his new agency. I found Crowe’s presentation of Jerry and Dorothy’s romance to be quite clichéd and I felt that the former’s marriage proposal came out of the blue. Additionally I wasn’t a fan of Dorothy’s cutesy son Ray, who felt out of place in what was otherwise an adult romantic comedy. What I did like was the fact that Jerry and Dorothy briefly separated due to the fact that he couldn’t retain a romantic relationship with her. But, in one of the film’s most famous moments, Jerry wins his wife over with the now classic line ‘you complete me’ which was followed up with Dorothy’s own ‘ you had me at hello.’ But in my opinion a couple of lines doesn’t make up for quite a sickly sweet romance which I didn’t feel particularly invested with at any time during the film.

I’m personally a big fan of Crowe’s and even though he’s been involved with a few misfires over the years, namely Elizabethtown, he has a likeable style and is a great writer and director. Although Jerry Maguire earned him his only Best Director nomination to date, I don’t feel that it stacks up with his best films. Instead I feel that it’s a pleasant enough romantic comedy which contains a few memorable moments that have gone down in film history. The film is at its best when concentrating on Jerry’s job as a sports agent as it lets Crowe’s ear for brilliant dialogue shine through. It also allows Cruise to demonstrate how great he not only is as a fast-talking businessman but also as somebody who learns the true meaning of friendship. Cruise has great chemistry with Cuba Gooding Jr who, as Rod, won that year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar. I initially wasn’t won over by Cuba’s performance and it was only in the second half of the film that he really shone. Although the film marked her big break, I thought that Renée Zellweger gave a rather weak performance as the single mother looking to embark on a new romance. Zellweger later proved that she was a great romantic comedy lead but here I found that there was no spark between her and Cruise. The casting of Jonathan Lipnicki as Ray was another misstep for the film as I found him annoying rather than endearing. Crowe has proved that he is able to write memorable supporting characters, but the quirky turns in Jerry Maguire leave a lot to be desired. The film was definitely a relaxing watch but I don’t think it’s a film that would ever be described as a classic in the romantic genre nor is it particularly memorable. In fact, although I’ve watched the film before, I remembered very little of it aside from its much-quoted lines of dialogue. Jerry Maguire also demonstrated how former music journalist Crowe could use a pop soundtrack to enhance the mood of a film. It was his love of music that would later produce his best work, and one of my favourite films; Almost Famous which saw him pick up an Oscar for his screenplay.


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