I graduated college ten years ago this month. It was also ten years ago when I saw a movie by Cameron Crowe in a theater.
Coming out of Vanilla Sky with my brother-in-law, I felt like the world was much bigger and vaster. A few weeks later, I saw the movie again and still loved it.
Since Crowe released only one more film in the ensuing years prior to this year, it's not like I had an embargo with his work. Elizabethtown interested me, but I never got around to seeing it. When the basic idea was announced, not surprisingly, online movie writers got excited about the prospect of something on par with Say Anything. Based on the response when the movie actually came out, there was a large degree of disappointment. (Seems like Nathan Rabin remains the most vocal about the film, especially with his bookend reviews of the film in My Year of Flops.)
This year, Crowe released Pearl Jam 20, a decent look at the band that suffers from a common dilemma with band documentaries: there was so much good stuff it became hard to whittle everything down to a manageable running time. I'm happy the doc exists and glad Crowe is back behind the lens.
But with We Bought a Zoo? That's where I apply the brakes.
Sam Adams wrote an extensive piece for Slate that breaks down Crowe's flaws. I will simply say this: the kind of earnestness that I loved with Almost Famous/Untitled and Vanilla Sky is not something I repeatedly yearn for. While I believe in asking "What do you love about music?" with a straight face and saying "Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around" to conquer internal struggles, I understand that kind of earnestness is silly for a lot of people. They're phrases that could easily come from a non-jaded person, but non-jaded adults don't exist in the minds of those consumed by absolute pessimism.
My reaction to We Bought a Zoo's trailer is that it's a heartwarming family film. I have no problem with those kinds of films, but David Fincher's take on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is tempting me more this holiday season. I'm not against seeing We Bought a Zoo, but it's not a must-see priority.
When faced with the question of who has changed more, the director or the audience, I'd have to say it's the audience by a mile. I applaud Crowe for sticking to his heart, but what grabbed a mainstream audience with Jerry Maguire and Say Anything might simply not fit for what people want these days.