Jerry sees off Tomfoolery

Jerry Maguire Cameron Crowe (15)

If it does nothing else, writer / director Cameron Crowe's multi- Oscar-nominated meditation on one man's quest for the meaning of existence, and the 1990s, answers a question that has been plaguing a sizeable section of mankind ever since a certain star first appeared in Zeffirelli's endless Endless Love way back in 1981, at the dawn of the "greed" decade: "What the hell is to be done with Tom Cruise?"

The answer turns out to be, as some critics always suspected, "Kill him." And that's precisely what this unexpectedly effective romantic comedy does before the opening credits have even finished unreeling. It murders the biggest box-office draw in the world or, more precisely, it kills off Cruise the arrogant, Cruise the overbearing, Cruise the ever-grinning, the Cruise who deserves to die just for having made Cocktail, Days of Thunder and Top Gun (we won't even speak of Far and Away). Farewell Tom, hello Jerry Maguire, the "best sports agent ever" - ever, that is, until he "suddenly sprouts a conscience" and promptly composes, in a spasm of late-night self-loathing, a mission statement attacking the almighty dollar and demanding that a corrupt business "return to personal relationships". The treatise might almost have been penned by Paul Newman, the callow Cruise's venerable pool mentor in The Color of Money, but giving vent to "The Things We Think But Never Say" duly gets Maguire fired from his job and, worse, strips him of his bullshit barrier - the monolithic masculine identity that comes from full-time employment.

Among the Things We Think But Don't Say is that Cruise had to get himself a new act, or at least act his age. As one character shorthands it for the hard-of-thinking: "He's early mid-crisis"; no longer a convincing boy, but still not quite... mature. If Jerry Maguire executes the cocky Cruise, it is also, as befits a Clinton-era movie, obsessed with rebirth (a second term means a second chance): Jerry's sacking comes a mere 24 hours after envious colleagues throw him a birthday party, and in case the lesson about professional death and personal growth doesn't register, the other movie going on inside the movie has Cruise spell it out, quoting his own age and recent interviews: "I was 35. I'd started my life."

Set against a depressed background of corporate downsizing, urban downshifting and deflated expectation, Jerry Maguire is, on the sly, a repudiation of everything the gung-ho Eighties image of Cruise stood for, even making iconographic mock of his trademark sunglasses. In Risky Business (Cruise as free-market pimp) and Top Gun (Cruise as a toy-boy soldier) the sunglasses were worn because, as the soundtrack song boasted, "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades". Here, the shades aren't sexy accessories, but hastily donned to hide suffering and damage, as when Cruise's brittle, high-flying fiancee (Kelly Preston) blackens his baby-blue eyes - more for betraying the American Dream than dumping her - and later, when Cruise crucially weeps at the prospect of losing his surrogate son (Jonathan Lipnicki) and the love of the single working mother (Renee Zellweger) who believes he's "nearly the man he ought to be".

In a film casually featuring a male nanny - "I prefer 'child technician' " - what men ought to be is Jerry Maguire's mystery to be solved. The movie's masterstroke - or maybe, as with The First Wives Club, it's just one of those lucky pop culture / celluloid collisions of concerns - is how Cameron's shrewdly observant script transforms a star's tardy market repositioning into a sign of the times: white collar, out of work, and useless about the house, increasing numbers of men must learn to find satisfaction and self in the place women have traditionally found it. Get a life means get an emotional life. Having called for a return to personal relationships, Jerry finds he's equipped with mere management skills.

"You're good at friendship but not at intimacy" is the refrain, and that's certainly true of Cruise's recessive past performances. Part of Cruise's appeal - as it was with Gable and Cooper - has been a holding back, not only from female co-stars, but from the camera. Caught in close- up, he can, like Robert Redford, appear (often invitingly) blank: get an emotional life. And from the early All The Right Moves to last summer's Mission Impossible, Cruise has belied his name by remaining resolutely static. It's the women who do the work; Cruise is possibly the most seduced male idol since Cary took it for Granted. What makes Jerry Maguire a messy, and therefore a genuinely modern romantic comedy - what gives it a swoon appeal missing from the genre since When Harry Met Sally - is that Cruise is finally forced to move forward. On a tricky date with Zellweger, he has to reveal himself in character, and as an actor and, for the first occasion on screen, he appears both avid, sexually anxious, and authentically grown-up. When he looks into Zellweger's eyes he seems to be seeing something other than his own reflection.

His unaccustomed sincerity redeems Jerry Maguire every moment it swerves toward formula. Indeed, the movie mostly sidesteps one's fears, just as Crowe's Say Anything and Singles did before they got too sticky. When black football player Rod Tidell (Cuba Gooding Jr) stays on as Jerry's sole remaining client, the expected male bonding is postponed by ritual humiliation and mutual unpleasantness - "Show. Me. The. Money." - yet it's the hitched and blissfully happy wide receiver who is the picture's repository of open feeling and motor mouthpiece for liberal family values. As he informs his agent, "A single mother is a sacred thing". That bluntly sentimental consciousness-raising is contrasted with the unconsciousness- raising of the sports scene, the last unambiguous arena where men can "prove" themselves. But, as Jerry Maguire suggests, it could take greater guts to admit "You make me complete" to the woman you've driven away, in front of a divorced women's group, and know what you're saying, than it takes to score a last-minute touchdown. Which is on its tearful way to a compromised Hollywood Happy Ending, but doesn't alter the fact that Jerry Maguire is to Tom Cruise's career what the Older album has been to George Michael's: part repentance, part acceptance, and a ready admission that, for men, it routinely takes disaster, and repetition of disaster, for them to grasp some pretty simple pointsn

On release from Friday

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing