“I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.” – Dorothy
By 1996 Cameron Crowe had found himself in the enviable position as one of the most successful Generation X writers and directors. With his funny and honest looks at life and love in your teens and 20s his next project would be vastly different from any before, would ignite the careers of its three stars and give to the world a couple of very memorable quotes.
Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a powerful high-flying sports agent with a client list that is the envy of most of his peers. When he suffers a sort of breakdown due to the stresses of his job he decides to put together a mission statement to distribute within the agency, stressing how dishonest the current way things are handled and how it can be improved. Entitled ‘The Things We Think But Do Not Say’ it is welcomed by his fellow workers, but the management are not impressed and they send in Jerry’s second in command Bob (Jay Mohr) to do the deed.
No sooner has he been told the news, Jerry and Bob begin to call all the athletes on Jerry’s list to try and convince them to go with them. With Jerry’s list getting shorter and shorter, his last hope lies with American football player Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr) who already feels unsatisfied with the services Jerry has provided as he feels he is underpaid in comparison with teammates. After a lengthy conversation, Jerry promises to ‘show him the money’ and the two decide to stick together.
Only one other client decides to stick with Jerry, Frank Cushman (Jerry O’Connell), another American football player who is expected to be the number one pick in that year’s draft.
As Jerry packs his boxes to leave the agency he asks his office if anybody is willing to join him. Enter Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), a single mother who was inspired by Jerry’s mission statement. The two leave to set up a new agency based on honesty rather than business.
Things start off well with Jerry taking Frank and Rod to the NFL draft, but Rod soon begins to feel neglected with Jerry devoting his attention to Frank. When Frank decides to jump ship and sign with Bob, Jerry is devastated and attempts to find some comfort with his fiancée Avery (Kelly Preston) who dumps him for not being the man she agreed to marry. The breakup brings him closer to Dorothy and her son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki) and the two soon marry.
With Rod as his only client, Jerry throws himself into his career, but the two remain estranged as Rod wants more money and Jerry doesn’t believe he is showing he is worth it on the field. Jerry’s relationship with Dorothy is also strained and she soon leaves him, believing the only reason he married her was so that he wouldn’t be alone.
With his life seemingly going down the drain, he travels to Rod’s latest game where he finds Bob trying to steal away his last client. His offer is rebuked by Rod and the two become close again, just as Rod goes out and plays the game of his life, which eventually secures him the mega bucks deal he wanted.
Determined not to let anything else stand in his way of happiness, Jerry flies back to Dorothy and tells her he is in love with her and could not imagine a life without her in it. Her response, “You had me at hello”, reveals she still loves Jerry and the two reunite.
Thoughts & Reaction
The fourth top grossing film in the year of its release (being beaten by Independence Day, Twister and another Cruise vehicle, Mission Impossible), Jerry Maguire was the sort of film that came as a pleasant surprise in a year that was dominated with big budget action filled movies. Not a full on romance or full on sports movie, it focused on the title character, making him a living, breathing person, whom you are swept away by and are rooting for, no matter what bone headed decisions he makes along the way.
Casting for this movie was spot on and I could not imagine another actor enigmatic enough at the time to pull together the character of Jerry as well as Tom Cruise, which, together with the release of Mission Impossible that year, cemented him as ‘the’ leading man in Hollywood. I have to honestly say he has rarely been as good in any of his movies as he was in this one and it makes me wish he would take up more of this type of role than the ageing action hero he seems intent on becoming.
Admirably supporting Cruise were Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr, who both became breakout stars due to their performances. Zellweger went on to win an Oscar and become Hollywood royalty while Gooding, who won an Oscar for his role as Rod Tidwell, went on to make, er, Boat Trip. Both, however, are stunning in their roles, with Zellweger managing to capture Dorothy in a spirit of being a strong woman who isn’t afraid to make her own choices but at the same time is in love with a man who doesn’t really know who he is, while Gooding Jr played the role with heart and soul.
There are some fantastic comedic moments that lift the film from becoming too depressing, but also add a great dramatic punch when needed.
With Jerry Maguire, Crowe manages to balance out the script so well you really are wrapped up in it from beginning to end and that truly is a testament to his ability as a writer. Visually, the movie looks great and is not as slick as most other Hollywood productions which, in many ways, I think adds to the warmth of it.
Not only a success on the big screen, Jerry Maguire became the surprise hit of the awards circuit that year. As mentioned above, Cuba Gooding Jr picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his part while Tom Cruise got a nod but lost out to Geoffrey Rush. Not all was lost, however, as he did mange to pick up a Golden Globe for his work.
Crowe’s next project would again be an awards darling, but would be on a subject closer to his heart as next time I will be looking at the semi-autobiographical Almost Famous.
Jerry Maguire Key Info:Released: December 13th 1996 (US) / 7th March 1997 (UK)Distributed By: TriStar PicturesBudget: $50,000,000Box Office Gross: $273,552,592Best DVD Edition: Jerry Maguire Special Edition