Is there a movie that captures the 1990's better than writer-director Cameron Crowe's "Jerry Maguire"? There might be, but it's hard to imagine a movie doing it better than this tale of a cynical, money-driven sports agent who abandons his high lifestyle to find refuge with a single mom and an enthusiastic client. It's a riches-to-rags story where the hero finds redemption, and it's wonderful. "Jerry Maguire" is everything a modern romantic comedy should be: smart, funny, character-driven, and incisive. Crowe occasionally allows his movie to drag a bit (It clocks in at just under two and a half hours)but his characters are so interesting and human, and their predicaments so vital and involving, that the movie's extended running time is hardly anything to complain about. Tom Cruise has never been better in a movie. He deserved his Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the title character, who goes from greedy and shallow to warm and human. The charisma and confidence that have always served Cruise so well in his career are put to great use in the movie's very funny first half. Cruise really does something special in the second half of the film, however: He lets his guard down and allows Jerry's emotions to shine through. Cuba Gooding, Jr. won the Supporting Actor Oscar for his work as Rod Tidwell, Jerry's lone client after he leaves his sports agency. Gooding, Jr.'s performance is uniformily hilarious and perfectly over-the-top, but he never strays from showing Rod's human side, which is expressed through the character's love of his family. The other great performance in the film (and one that was sadly overlooked by Oscar) is Renee Zellweger's as Dorothy Boyd, the warmhearted assistant and single mom that Jerry falls for. The actress is a constant delight, lovable and energetic. But her character is not simply a sappy romantic foil for Jerry; She's an intelligent and perceptive woman who ultimately makes Jerry earn her love. The supporting roles in Crowe's film are also written with remarkable complexity and the actors portraying them all give terrific performances. Bonnie Hunt is tenderly funny as Dorothy's skeptical sister; Regina King is wonderfully spirited as Rod's loving wife; Kelly Preston is refreshingly ruthless as Jerry's coldhearted fiancee; Jay Mohr is enjoyably sleazy as Jerry's underhanded nemesis; Jerry O'Connell and Beau Bridges make a nicely believable future football star and his father, respectively. The real scene-stealer in this remarkable bunch, however, is young Jonathan Lipnicki, who is adorable and hysterical as Dorothy's son. This is a great movie. Crowe writes and directs moments of perfect tenderness that never become cloying or manipulative and he also has a knack for creating scenes of pure joy. Included throughout the film are monologues from Jerry's mentor, Dicky Fox, that allude to the film's overall themes. They are completely random and completely perfect and they show that Crowe (who also directed 1992's "Singles" and 1989's "Say Anything...") has not lost his sense of quirkiness. In fact, Crowe hasn't lost anything with this one. "Jerry Maguire" is a winner in every sense, a movie that overflows with intelligence, humor, romance, and enormously engaging characters. It's a perfect movie for its era, one of the decade's best comedies, and a glowing example that even a business as cynical and jaded as Hollywood can occasionally still do things right.
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