Dir: Cameron Crowe (Say Anything; Almost Famous)
It had been quite a few years since I had seen this one. While the basics of the story were familiar, the nuances of this wonderful movie were new to me. I like watching movies in that state; I can focus on the details (since I have the story down) and in those little moments its like watching the film for the first time.
Like his other tremendous romantic comedies, Crowe here has cast all of his characters in exceedingly believable shades of emotional gray. Cruise's Maguire is idealistic yet tremendously arrogant. Zellweger's Dorothy Boyd is vulnerable yet suprisingly capable for a "girl cannot resist bad boy" narrative. And Cuba Gooding Jr., of course, pulls off one of the greatest one-hit wonder acting performances of all time (unless you dug "Boat Trip" that is) as the cocky football player, whose public persona hides the truly beautiful love he feels for his family from the rest of the world.
Jerry Maguire is a movie where none of the characters are perfect and where all learn from each other. Such care went into crafting this story and the journey of each character that it is a marvel to see how natural all of decisions they make are. It is impossible not to root for each of the three, and the film has a compassion for them that is so refreshing among so many sappy or cynical love movies.
The decision to use sport as the metaphor for the relationships examined in the film is a masterstroke by Crowe. He immediately makes his point accessible to even the most rugged meathead. They may not know it, but the people who obsess about TO or Barry Bonds are just watching a different version of celebrity gossip, Nick and Jessica in jock straps. It's "As the World Turns" in real life. And while many movies will depict traditional soap operas or the lives of the rich and famous to discuss love, Crowe takes sports to do the same thing. It works tremendously.
It was my pick for the best movie of the year at the time, edging "Fargo." I stand by that sentiment some ten years later.