Released 13 years ago to considerable acclaim and home-run financial success, Jerry Maguire remains Cameron Crowe‘s finest film. It’s easily one of the most soulful and emotionally affecting movies about a troubled, emotionally-repressed, elite-business-class, fraying-at-the-edges white guy ever made. The writing is robust, sharp and knowing, the secondary characters are tangy and angular, and there’s still no question that it contains Tom Cruise‘s career-best performance.
But something in me slightly winced when N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott included two of the film’s three classic lines — “You had me at hello” and “You complete me” — in this Critics Pick video piece. (Thankfully he didn’t include “show me the money.”) Because as spirited and resonant as these lines seemed in ’96, they’ve been repeated to death since, and it’s pretty much impossible now to “let them in.”
Which is a way of saying that whenever a movie catches on too well with mall culture, something is gradually lost. Jerry Maguire will always sit on my DVD/Blu-ray shelf, but seeing it fresh at the Jimmy Stewart theatre on the Sony Studios lot a few weeks before it opened in early December ’96 was, for me, one of those truly special encounters that can never be re-lived or re-savored. It was what it was back then, but it became too popular and too sentimentally branded in a People magazine sense, and now it’s something else, which is to say an overplayed vinyl record. You can go home again by re-watching Jerry Maguire from time to time, but not really.
Which reminds me — whatever happened to Crowe’s Hawaiian “volcano romance” movie that Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon were going to costar in, but which was withdrawn for a rewrite/re-think?