Five Oscar nominations, but fewer real laughs

Tom Cruise is a sports agent who saves his soul and earns a fortune. But that's not enough to make 'Jerry Maguire' a success

Great moments of revelation in Western culture: Saul on the road to Damascus; Petrarch on the summit of Mt Ventoux; Luther in the choir; and now, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), during the opening sequence of Cameron Crowe's film of that name. A showy, sharply edited, adequately funny montage of scenes from Jerry's life as an unscrupulous sports agent - made all the punchier by being set to a live version of The Who's "Magic Bus" (has Mr Crowe been watching Mr Scorsese?) - this set-piece establishes the man as ripe for an early mid-life crisis, which duly slams in with the words, "I couldn't escape one simple truth. I hated myself." Inflamed by his epiphany, Jerry sits down at the word processor and, as The Who's music modulates from rocker to mellow ballad, writes the vision up into a manifesto. Jerry has realised that what he really wants to do with the rest of his life is ... to represent fewer clients.

Well, it wasn't likely that he was going to go off and found a world religion, but the bathos of Jerry's conclusion here stops the film's pleasing headlong movement dead in its tracks, and it never picks up real velocity again. Apart from the odd lapse into emetic cuteness, Jerry Maguire (15) feels like a modest little film that is trying to pass itself off as something rather grander, maybe even profound, and probably about the need for guys to get in touch with their female side. (The last time I tried it, I ended up slapping myself and apologising.) It runs for the best part of two and a half hours, less because its narrative demands an epic scale than from Crowe's apparent reluctance to yell "cut!" on dragging scenes which have long since outworn their welcome. The Oscar committee, which has put this unremarkable piece up for five Awards, must contain a lot of professionals who want to be told nice stories about losing the world but finding your soul.

Ah, but then - it will surprise few, and should spoil the enjoyment of none to be told this - Jerry eventually manages to have both the world and his soul. Crowe's plot is not overburdened with complexity. Dumped by his agency for daring to talk morals, punched in the face by his luscious fiancee (Kelly Preston) and left with only one client, a stroppy football player and staunch family man (Cuba Gooding Jr, in a part which begins in gross caricature but gathers a fair degree of weight around the middle reels), Jerry hits rock bottom. Redemption comes, as so often, in female form: Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), a single mother who is the only one to stand by Jerry after he's fired, and who gradually evolves from employee to date to wife. It takes effort, but eventually Dorothy and her winsome son render the jerk capable of saying things like "You complete me" right in front of a rancorous women's group. (Who, despite their views on the gender, melt at his words. Right.)

Were it a less doggedly conventional film, Jerry Maguire would be content to stop here, with the Cruise character duly humanised as he was in, say, Rain Man. But this is a film in which every good boy deserves fortunes, and millions of dollars obligingly flutter down on Jerry's reborn career - a move which would have been easier to forgive had the laughs come quicker and thicker, or the romance been managed with more sparkle. It will be no scandal if Cruise bags the Best Actor award, though, since the film would have been a good deal less substantial still without his engaging presence. You leave the cinema feeling the same kind of gratitude to him you might feel to the one civil guest at an otherwise tiresome party.

For anyone who was put through the emotional mangle a quarter of a century ago by Bob Rafelson directing Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces or The King of Marvin Gardens, the spectacle of their latest reunion for Blood and Wine (18) cannot but provoke sentiments of sic transit, especially since Rafelson has described those three films as forming an unpremeditated trilogy about dysfunctional families. The new offering toes the genre lines that Rafelson's earliest films transgressed so nonchalantly and to such devastating effect, and however much you might want to hunt out its spiritual depths for old time's sake, it seldom rises far above the level of reasonably classy thriller with nice touches.

At times, very nice indeed; Michael Caine is on wickedly good form as Victor, a vicious English safecracker, bent on smoking himself to death, who is hired by a predatory wine merchant, Alex (Jack Nicholson), to help him steal a valuable necklace - a plot unwittingly derailed by Alex's wife (Judy Davis, wasted), stepson (Stephen Dorm, dull) and mistress (Jennifer Lopez, unsurprising), with fatal consequences for most. Caine gives Blood and Wine most of the sourly comic touches it needs to drag itself out of the rut, and he has one speech - a hacked-off commentary on the ratty motel room in which he and Nicholson are holed up, beginning "This is not an ocean-front suite in Marbella" - that is almost as priceless as their swag. His scenes with Nicholson can be exquisitely nasty: dirty rotten scoundrels, indeed.

Normal Life (18) is book-ended with the regulation hail of bullets and trail of corpses, but the guts of the film are closer to Strindberg or Zola than to Schwarzenegger. Directed by John McNaughton, who made the ferociously praised Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (not my cup of plasma, frankly), it's essentially the portrait of a doomed proletarian marriage between Chris, a well-intentioned, lovesick sap of a policeman (the quondam teenage wet dream Luke Perry, selflessly hiding his pretty- boy looks behind a tacky moustache) and his deranged child bride Pam (Ashley Judd), a kewpie doll possessed by demonic legions. Pam's poor housekeeping habits drive them so far into debt that hubby has no alternative but to pack an Uzi, don a fake beard still uglier than his real facial hair, and start holding up banks.

There are more wrinkles than you might expect. Pam, particularly, is something of an original. Where most of the women in movies about blue- collar couples going on gonzo crime sprees are (a) extremely dim and (b) played by Juliette Lewis, Ms Judd's character has all the baroque neuroses and singularity usually reserved for New York literati. An astronomy nut, she reads Stephen Hawking while listening to thrash metal and smoking dope; runs up vast credit-card bills on accessories for her telescope; calls her dog "Chaos", presumably after the theory; and knows how to use the term "event horizon". McNaughton has a marksman's eye for everyday bleakness, and the courage not to keep goosing his audience with needless bursts of gunplay. Much of the film is a grim, slow-burning horror comic about a mad woman pulling a weak man down to hell. It cuts deeper than a lot of more overtly ambitious films.

On which note: Swann (15), adapted from the novel by Carol Shields and directed by Anna Benson Gyles, is a curious hybrid of Gothic rural mystery story and sprightly urban literary satire - not, despite the title, of Proust and his circle - the latter portions tending to be the happier. Sarah Maloney (Miranda Richardson) is a chic, tough, bestselling author with feminist pretentions and boyfriend problems, who has just picked up an advance of six figures - groans of cupidity and disbelief echoed across the screening-room - to write the biography of Mary Swann, an all- but-unknown hick poet from Ontario who, after being axed to death by her husband, has been boosted as a latter-day Emily Dickinson. A rather too predictable twist lies in wait, concerning Rose Hindmarch (Brenda Fricker), the local librarian who has been the chief tender of the poet's flame. Some of Swann feels literary in the pejorative sense - more engrossed with elaborating conceits than telling a story - though it's an agreeable enough watch, and not a bad listen: Richard Rodney Bennett's score is a model of tact in a period when soundtrack music is becoming ever more pushy and cloying.

Two limited releases by way of pay-off. Irma Vep (no cert), written and directed by the former critic Olivier Assayas, is a rambling, fitfully inspired film-about-filming, in which Rene Vidal, an erratic middle-aged director (Jean-Pierre Leaud, whose face - one of the most flagrantly beautiful in the history of young male leads - is ageing into a tragic mask) hires a lissom English-speaking actress from Hong Kong action films (Maggie Cheung) to play the role of the heroine Irma Vep in a remake of Feuillade's silent series, Les Vampires (1915-16). It seems an accurate account of the agonies and idiocies involved in making a cheap art movie, and one suspects layer upon layer of jokes and cruelties lost on the outsider.

Cinema details: Going Out, page 14.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition