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There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is merely the absence of success. Any fool can achieve failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of epic proportions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to others to make other people feel more alive because it didn't happen to them.
I think I've been asleep most of my life.
Drew Baylor is on top of the world. He just designed a shoe for a Nike-analogue. It's expected to be a huge hit. His family is proud of him. He has a beautiful girlfriend. Obviously, it doesn't last. In fact, the audience doesn't even get to see any of his success, because the film opens with Drew's firing. His shoe bombed. It's being recalled, and the company is losing billions of dollars. Not millions. Billions. His girlfriend dumps him. His career is flushed down the toilet. What's left? Suicide, of course!
But before he can off himself (though not before he's given away all his possessions on the street corner), he gets a call from his sister. His father has died while visiting his own parents in Kentucky. Both Drew's mom and his sister are far too emotional to deal with the situation. They call on him to arrange the funeral and cremation. So Drew's plans for suicide are put on hold as he flies off to Kentucky to meet with his family.
On the plane, Drew meets a quirky stewardess named Claire. Though he doesn't tell her his problems, she senses something is amiss and strikes up a conversation with him. They talk briefly on the plane, and she leaves him with her phone number. Drew thinks nothing of it until he actually gets to Elizabethtown, KY and has to deal with his family and his father's remains. In emotional turmoil, he reaches out to Claire and the two strike up a connection.
The movie is supposedly based on director Cameron Crowe's own life. It stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst as the two romantic leads, with notable appearances by Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Jessica Biel. It also, rather oddly, features Food Network TV chef Paula Deen as Orlando Bloom's character's aunt.
The film provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Claire Colburn.
- Beta Couple: Chuck and Cindy, arguably.
- Brick Joke: "DID I MISS 60-B!?!?!" Yes he did, and he finds it on the way OUT of Elizabethtown
- Boy Meets Girl
- Catch Phrase: "Chuck and Cindy. Loving life, loving you!"
- Dead Baby Comedy: The jokes and references to suicide drift into this territory.
"...and get back on that bike!"
- Death Trap: Notably, Drew builds one of these for himself, out of an exercise bike and a large steak knife. And duct tape.
- Driven to Suicide: Drew at the start of the film.
- Dysfunctional Family: Most of the dysfunction comes from the extended family towards the "California Baylors" (though they're really from Oregon).
- Also, there's a side plot about father-son relationships in the family. It's a reoccuring theme.
- Eccentric Townsfolk: And most of them are related to Drew!
- Epic Fail - Oh yes, in fact the page quote does a decent job or describing the difference between this trope and a regular failure.
- As it happened, this movie bombed at the box office, and was the very first film examined in Nathan Rabin's ongoing series of columns for The Onion A.V. Club, "My Year of Flops". It also helped Rabin define his rating system for the films: Secret Success, Failure, and Fiasco...which he regards this film as.
- It should be noted that upon returning to the film for a second viewing, Nathan Rabin actually fell in love with it, and recorded this as the final article in "My Year of Flops" when he published it as a book.
- Fake American: Orlando Bloom is British.
- The Fun in Funeral: Or at the memorial, at least. Drew's mother took stand-up comedy lessons and proceeds to share funny anecdotes. Then the Lynyrd Skynnyrd tribute band strikes up a tune, only to send the whole place up in flames.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Ruckus.
- Good Ol' Boy: Most of the Kentucky Baylor clan.
- Happy Ending:Yes.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Claire's off-screen boyfriend, who probably doesn't even exist.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The Food Network's Paula Deen — as one of Drew's Kentucky relatives! (According to an interview for the Food Network Elizabethtown special, she was cast after Cameron Crowe caught the special episode of "Paula's Home Cooking" featuring former president Jimmy Carter.)
- It Always Rains At Funerals: actually a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as an unexpected rainstorm hit the day had to shoot this scene, and director Cameron Crowe decided to shoot anyway since he thought it looked beautiful.
- Interrupted Suicide: Drew's, at the beginning of the film.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The aforementioned A.V. Club review gave the trope its name in reference to Claire, describing her as "Dunst's psychotically chipper waitress in the sky".
- Narrator: Drew.
- Quirky Town: Elizabethtown itself to an extent.
- Road Movie: The latter part of the movie develops into this.
- Running Gag: The Kentucky Baylors think Drew's family is from California, when they're actually from Oregon. This Oregonian troper could sympathize with the irritation on Drew's face after about the third time that happened.
- Scenery Porn: particularly towards the last half of the movie, while Drew takes his road trip.
- Southern Belle: Claire.