Jerry Maguire (1996)
Why I Hate This Scene: In late 1996 I was a hopeless romantic 18 year old working at a rinky-dink movie theatre. I loved Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe movies. I also wrote a lot of poetry and also wore a beret as my de facto “I’m unique” choice of headwear. We all do odd and sentimental things as teens. That’s part of the plan and the name of the game. I can fill an olympic-sized swimming pool with all the dumb and embarrassing things I now regret during those awkward and confusing times. I’m in my late 30s now and I still do embarrassing and awkward things but mainly because I don’t much care what other people think as much. Now I still like Crowe’s older movies (I still haven’t seen anything after Vanilla Sky—which I hated when it premiered) and they are still worth watching alongside the teen comedies of John Hughes. They may be dated and sentimental drivel at times but the emotions still resonate with our inner teens. However, Jerry Maguire is on a fine line with this reasoning.
I haven’t seen Jerry Maguire in its entirety in a long while but I’ve seen it enough to remember most of it, and despite what I will go on to complain about, I still think its a great movie. The acting is fantastic still. Bonnie Hunt and Cuba Gooding Jr. are roles that are still very worth seeing. But whether it’s a feeling of being outdated or at a turning point for Tom Cruise’s career, this movie just seems so schmaltzy to me now. It’s a rom-com that is trying to be the BEST rom-com of its time, I feel. It’s 140 minutes of a man coming to terms with his humility and aspires to be a better person while falling in love and overcoming romantic relationship hardships. Even after writing that small synopsis I feel it’s even more than that and yet I can’t seem to do better than what I wrote. I can’t say it’s a mess of a movie but it just feels odd to me. Case in point is the infamous “You had me at ‘Hello'” scene.
Cruise has a banner day and for reasons I cannot fully remember he has to win back Renée Zellweger, who plays his wife. The scene even features the obligatory Tom Cruise running very fast towards the camera gag. I think he realized that her loyalty for him was love and he married her for the wrong reasons but now realizes that she is perfect for him or something along those lines. He enters the home whilst Zellweger and her sister Hunt have a divorced women’s counseling session and he just decides to express his true feelings for her in this venue. Like I said, schmaltzy. It starts off very decent and sweet with him saying that despite their company having a big success that evening it was hollow because she wasn’t there with him to share in the celebration. He’s then on the verge of tears when he says he misses her and dammit I’m getting choked-up too watching this. And then it nosedives into cringe-worthy and out of nowhere dialogue. He then says “We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors. I love you. You… complete me.” If you never saw this movie or this scene then it’s even more eye-rollingly awkward than it sounds. A cynical world? Work in a business of tough competitors? Why did he have to mention that when he’s proclaiming and declaring his love to his wife? It’s ridiculous and dumb. It was a good dramatic scene until that one bit of dialogue. Then she says the infamous: “Shut up, just shut up. You had me at ‘Hello.’ You had me at ‘Hello.’ Which isn’t as good as what it sounded like to me back in 1996 but still better than the struggling Cruise was going through to form a complete adequate sentence. Sure, I get that Jerry was having a tough time in a room full of man-hating divorcées and struggling to profess his feelings and started off on an awkward tangent but was it really necessary? It seems like Crowe had to add one more zing to the talent-agent business to get his point across despite the previous 129 minutes already doing that adequately, I think. It sounds too forced and out of place to me now.
This movie opened a few months after the first Mission: Impossible and I think 1996 was a identity-crisis moment in Cruise’s career. Before Mission: Impossible he was mainly doing dramas like A Few Good Men, The Firm and Interview With a Vampire. Besides Top Gun (if you even call that an action movie), he was a long way from his signature stunts or running very fast kind of pictures. They were dramas that he tried in vain to win a gold statue like Rain Man or Born on the Fourth of July. After Jerry Maguire in 1996 he didn’t star in another movie until Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia in 1999. And those movies, along with Vanilla Sky, didn’t do too well box-office wise or even critically. Since 2002 he has been one of the most successful action stars with the Mission: Impossible sequels, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Collateral and Edge of Tomorrow. And even though Jack Reacher wasn’t a major hit, it’s still a great action flick in my opinion. So methinks he was sick of the hammy melodramatic schmaltz of the ’80s and ’90s and decided he was better suited for action-adventure genre pictures. That’s where I see him as a better actor and while he is aging very gracefully he can still play the dashing agent or young skilled rogue on a mission. So while Jerry Maguire may have been a defining ’90s rom-com that garnered a lot of praise and was even nominated for a lot of awards, it hasn’t aged so well for me. I sadly grew up from that beret-wearing hopeless romantic poet that I once was.