I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. I had heard so little about it that I hardly knew who was in it or that the famous, “You complete me” line was contained somewhere in it. The line, “help me help you!” is also in here, which is promptly dismissed and laughed at by the person it is said to.
To be honest, about 60% way through the movie I started to lose interest. I only watched it because according to this list I keep taking movies from, it’s a movie that’d make me want to quit my job. But it’s more like a movie that just makes me never want to do anything in the world of sports, whether I’m working for someone or myself.
To be frank (who?), Jerry Maguire pretty much sucks at everything in this movie.
Maguire (played by the incomparably crazy Tom Cruise) is an employee of a corporation that delegates agents to sports stars. Maguire happens to be one of the best but also decides to grow a conscience after a little kid tells him to fuck off for treating the kid’s father like dirt. The kid’s father keeps getting concussions, yet is constantly encouraged to keep playing anyways, seemingly putting Maguire’s finances ahead of his player’s health.
This is a great moment and in general the movie does spend a fair amount with kids having some share of the spotlight. The other one who tends to have it the most (the previously mentioned kid is just there for a scene or two) Ray Boyd (played by Jonathan Lipnicki) who I thought was absolutely charming. He stole the scenes whenever he was in them.
But the moral foundation of the movie seems fairly week. I won’t even really touch the romantic part of the film because it’s not what I was interested in. Plus, I often found myself lost at exactly why Cruise’s character had any sort of chemistry with Dorothy Boyd (played by Renée Zellweger).
So to quote Maguire, “No comment.”
As I was saying, the moral foundation of the movie seems fairly weak. It’s good to have a conscience and put out your feelings about where you’re working…but then you’re punished for it (realistic admittedly) and then basically everything falls apart around you. On the other hand, Maguire does find success here and there, but for the most part the movie seems to be a frustrating compilation of how not to be an entrepreneur.
And it’s tough to tell when Maguire means what he says earlier in the film. He constantly derides the “memo” (mission statement) that he wrote for the company he gets fired from. Even though it’s what keeps Dorothy coming back to him and seems to differentiate him from the corporation he used to be in. Which, I’ll add, is painted in a rather lazy and so-obviously sleazy way, it’s almost comically bad. I suppose that’s the point and perhaps even a tad realistic though.
The other conflicting part is that Maguire ends up having second doubts after going through with the memo. He seems to think that maybe he made a mistake. And just as I said before, he continues to seem to think that further into the movie. So it gets confusing about what sort of life we’re actually supposed to be desiring, especially since most folks don’t seem to agree with him within the firm (even after cheering) and he doesn’t get a lot of positive reinforcement in his decision.
Obviously the movie isn’t really anti-work or trying to be, so I’m not going to criticize it on those grounds. But even as far as the “quit working for your soulless corporation” plot goes, it’s weak. Maguire doesn’t have much of a highly improved moral system once he leaves and tries to strike it on his own. For a while there he keeps striking out in terms of how to actually be a more caring person who thinks less about the money and more about his clients.
Throughout this movie that sort of ethic for Maguire seems to be a disadvantage to him more than an advantage. He’s constantly worrying about commission pays and trying to get the next big client on his side. I think that speaks to the lack of substantial commentary on jobs in this movie. Maybe it challenges (in some shallow way) letting money dictate your values instead of yourself. But that sort of ethic doesn’t seem to change that considerably along the way, probably because things like capitalism and the state still exist. But again…I didn’t expect the movie to go there, so whatever.
There’s a point early in the film where it almost faked me out and made it look like Maguire was going to be really successful within his job. There’s a seedy underbelly of cynicism with an overcoat of optimism in this movie and they’re constantly in a sort of thematic power struggle to see what mood pervades the films. Unfortunately, it’s often a bit heavy-handed and uneven and even when it works, I don’t often find myself fully enthralled with it.
The film is trying to be a sports film, a success(?) story and a romantic movie all in one.
And I don’t think it works.
My takeaway from this film was that you don’t just stop becoming another “shark in a suit” just by quitting a stock faceless corporation. You have to do that by actually committing yourself to what you love, building personal connections and make them meaningful. Using people for utility and for pleasure isn’t a great foundation for friendship and the point of the film, from my perspective, is to show how to treat people as friends, while doing business too.
That said, I didn’t think the film did any of these things particularly well. It was certainly trying and I noticed these themes, so it isn’t like they’re invisible. But I don’t think it’s balanced enough with the other subplots of romance, family and the realities of trying to make it on your own. Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention at some crucial moments, or maybe it’s because I’m not really a sports kind of person.
Whatever the reason may be, this movie didn’t “complete” me.
And also, no one can complete you.
That’s a bullshit idea, just FYI.
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