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

Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence