The best art is personal. The worst art is too personal.
There is a fine line between these two distinctions, and director Cameron Crowe has found himself on the wrong side. It's unfortunate because Crowe's "Almost Famous" was perfectly situated on the right side.
Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is a promising young shoe designer for a Nike-like company who spends eight years developing a revolutionary new shoe that is about to flop and cost the company almost $1 billion.
After hearing the news about the failed shoe, Drew goes home, throws out all his stuff and builds a homemade Kevorkian suicide machine.
But before he can go through with it, he receives a call from his sister notifying him of their father's death.
Drew goes to Kentucky and the small town of Elizabethtown to represent his Oregonian family, since a divorce has split them all apart.
A culture change is in store for Drew as he meets a side of his family that he hasn't known since he was a young child. They embrace him, as does Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a flight attendant he meets on his trip.
As he learns more about his father's family and deals with multiple memorial services, he becomes closer to Claire through a series of overwrought falling-in-love montages.
Half of the movie moves into romantic comedy territory, while the other half remains with Drew coming to terms with his father's death and the time they didn't spend together.
Bloom seems comfortable with a weapon in tow, but here he's mostly unlikable with an irritating American accent that is constantly present with the film's first-person narration.
While Dunst is certainly cute as a button, her Southern accent isn't up to par either. As a couple, they have the frequent problem of looking like two movie stars rather than a pair with vastly different backgrounds.
Excruciatingly long and drawn out at only a little more than two hours, Crowe's narrative is a complete mess. While films like "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous" have structural problems, with the main character not having one clear goal, Bloom's Drew never seems to want anything. By the third memorial/funeral, the audience has to be left wondering if this is ever going to turn into the sentimental road movie featured so prominently in the previews.
At different parts of the movie, smaller characters problematically take control of long scenes. Clearly these could have been edited much shorter, but it points to the film being too difficult for Crowe to edit because of its personal subject matter.
This would all be fine if there were supporting characters as interesting as Kate Hudson's character in "Almost Famous" or Cuba Gooding Jr.'s in "Jerry Maguire," but when Susan Sarandon did a 10-minute monologue in the middle of the movie, I wondered why her character was even in the film.
Crowe's epic and personal film never finds any emotion, despite an endless amount of music that tries to trick you into feeling something. You'll check your watch and check your pulse.
Despite Crowe's obvious talent and history, this is the worst kind of film: bloated and yet empty.