Oscar Movie Month: "Jerry Maguire" Review

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Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a successful sports agent. The biggest clients, the respect, a beautiful fiancée, he has it all. Until one night he questions his purpose. Jerry steps out into the sports business armed with only one volatile client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and the only person with belief in his abilities (Renée Zellweger) with the impossible task of rebuilding what he once had. Along the way he faces the harsh truths which he'd ignored in the past and a host of hardships that he'd never faced before.
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Oscar Movie Month: "Jerry Maguire" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 139 minutes
Release Date: December 13, 1996
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance

"Jerry Maguire," is the perennial classic film by writer/director Cameron Crowe. In this film, Jerry (Tom Cruise) plays a hotshot sports agent firmly in line with Cruise's usual hotshot film roles. In this film, Maguire starts out as a brash, selfish and supremely capable professional players' representative who works his magic in the high-stakes world of professional sports agency via hefty doses of his preternaturally outgoing and charismatic personality.

One night, Maguire's conscience unexpectedly gets the better of him. Temporarily worn out by reflection back on his life as a "shark in a suit," as he puts it, he's motivated to draft a new mission statement for his agency. In it, he encourages the firm to change its ways and adopt a new ethos: "Fewer clients, less money, more personal attention." Of course, he's fired immediately, and soon he finds himself separated from his fiancée, Avery (Kelly Preston). It isn't long before even his "friends" stop returning his calls and start avoiding him like the plague. Jerry finds himself at a crossroads, having to decide whether he can go on as the man he's been all his life or if there's something better ahead for him.

"Jerry Maguire" manages to occupy a space between genres. It works as a classic buddy-flick, with audiences enjoying the back-and-forth between Maguire and his only remaining client, the rising football star Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.). It also works very well as a romantic comedy, working out the unfolding romance between Maguire and Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger). "Jerry Maguire" is a movie that has achieved transcendence, rising far higher than the mere sum of its parts. "Jerry Maguire" works on every level as an intimate portrait of a man to whom intimacy is foreign territory. He's a guy who has plenty of buddies but who's never had a single friend.

Director Cameron Crowe has always been a luminous talent when it comes to picking out and amplifying the key details of his characters. The roles in "Jerry Maguire" are rich and full-bodied with a three-dimensional realism that works to really sell the characters as actual people who move through the world and who operate according to a rich tapestry of inner motives.

Of special note are the stellar performances the cast delivered for this movie. Zellweger breathes life into Dorothy, until she seems to step off the screen and into a seat with the rest of the audience. Cruise has found a role playing a man like himself and so can hardly be said to be acting at all. Of course, no description of the all-around stellar performances in "Jerry Maguire" can skip Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Oscar-winning role as Rod. Other notables in "Jerry Maguire" include Kelly Preston, who ended up getting into other roles as a leading lady, and Jay Mohr, whose big career in Hollywood was foreshadowed by his big role as Bob Sugar.

While "Jerry Maguire" only took home a single Best Supporting Actor Oscar, it was nominated for several more. Tom Cruise was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role and, indeed, wound up winning a Golden Globe in that category, while Joe Hutshing was given a nod for his editing and Cameron Crowe, Laurence Mark and two guys from "The Simpsons" were in the running for the Best Picture category. Crowe was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, usually referred to as Best Original Screenplay.

"Jerry Maguire" is one of the films that shaped the culture during the 1990s. In a decade that could fairly be said to have overflowed with great cinema, "Jerry Maguire" managed to stand out as the romantic comedy that wasn't sappy, as the buddy-flick that wasn't full of worn-out schtick and as the blockbuster without all the CGI dinosaurs eating scientists. For a film to be successful in a single genre is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment for most people in Hollywood. For a film to become a crossover hit with two audiences is supremely difficult. To manage all of that, plus take home awards, launch successful careers and add a number of new phrases to the English language is the sort of thing that couldn't have happened even if it had been scripted in a movie. "Jerry Maguire" makes for a great date movie, as well as being a fine choice to stay in and watch again on a rainy night.

Rating: 4 out of 5