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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Elizabethtown, Part 2

A continuation of my observations about Elizabethtown:

The day before Mitch's (Drew's dad) memorial service, Drew is talking to Claire about how bad he failed with his shoe design fiasco. He seems to believe that his failure is too much to overcome—that somehow it's so big that when other people look at him, all they see is his disaster.

Claire says this to him: "So you failed. Alright. You really failed. You failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed. You think I care about that? I do understand. You're an artist. Your job is to break through barriers, not accept blame and bow and say 'Thank you, I'm a loser, I'll go away now.' Oh, Phil's [Drew's boss] mean to me. Wah, wah, wah. You want to be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make 'em wonder why you're still smiling. That's true greatness to me."

I think it's at this point when Drew knows that Claire isn't a substitute person. She's the real deal. But they have a problem. Drew is planning to drive home the next day after his father's memorial service and they both seem to know that he needs to take this trip—even if they are supposed to be together. So Claire insists that he goes on the trip and Drew doesn't try to stay.

Love is delicate and fragile at a moment like this. If one person clings too hard, he or she drowns the seed of opportunity with too much water before it's even had a chance to plant roots. But at the same time, if one person seems indifferent, the indifference crushes the seed. An unwritten, unspoken balance between the two positions allows both people the necessary freedom to process and when that happens, oftentimes the seed takes root and eventually leads to a beautiful plant in full bloom.

The next day, as Mitch's memorial service draws to a close, Claire delivers a road trip kit to Drew. Then Claire says one of the most stirring lines I've ever heard: "I want you to get into the deep, beautiful, melancholy of everything that's happened."

I'm not sure why that line strikes me so deeply. I think it's because she's willing to let him go—to experience the road without her, to get in touch with the loss of his father, to think about all that he's lost, and maybe all that he's gained.

According to Claire's kit, Drew's road trip would take him 42 hours and 11 minutes. The kit includes maps, pictures of road side attractions, and mix CDs with music and Claire's voice—all of which are perfectly timed as he rolls into each city. Drew straps the urn containing the remains of his dad into the front seat and starts his journey from Kentucky to Oregon.

Claire anticipated one of his first stops…the newsstand where he picks up the magazine carrying the story about his professional demise. After he reads the article, Claire said this to him via CD: "You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Discard it. And proceed."

He travels into Memphis, at Claire's direction, where he finds what Claire calls the "greatest chili in the world." Then she sends him on a journey through Arkansas, then Oklahoma, and then Kansas. And finally, the tears come—the tears he hadn't yet cried over the death of his father. I'm guessing that this is the deep, beautiful, melancholy that Claire was talking about.

Toward the end of his journey, Claire sends him to a farmer's market and tells him to look inside a certain book. There he finds a note that directs him to another area. Finally, he finds one more note that tells him he can either get back into his car and make his way home, or look for a girl in a red hat who is waiting for him with an alternate plan.

He goes looking for her and when he finds her, neither of them are substitute people any longer.


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