VOD film review: Jerry Maguire (1996)
Mark Harrison | On 25, Mar 2022
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr, Renée Zellweger, Regina King, Jonathan Lipinicki
With the 94th Academy Awards going ahead this weekend, we’ve had plenty of the annual debate about whether people care about the Oscars any more. One of the gimmicks being added to this year’s telecast to revive audience interest is a new Best Fan Favourite Movie award, voted for by film fans on Twitter, but even when the Best Picture field was literally half as wide as this year’s, it used to be that popular movies got nominated for the top prize proper.
That’s one of the reasons we’re covering Jerry Maguire, but as this is also the 50th edition of The 90s On Netflix, we’re doing something a bit different – it’s a movie this writer has never seen before choosing it for this column. It’s also a bit more mature than the films we usually cover, but for our money, the film’s undisputable place in 1990s pop culture more than qualifies it for consideration.
Tom Cruise plays high-flying 35-year-old sports agent Jerry Maguire, who has an epiphany and circulates a self-penned mission statement entitled “The Things We Think But Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business” to everyone at his agency. His proposal of “less money, more client care” does not go down well. Within a week, he’s out on his ear, with only one employee, admiring accountant Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger), and one client, American footballer and family man Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr), to his name.
As his personal and professional life falls apart, Jerry tries to stick to his new ethics and do what he thinks is right by both Rod and Dorothy. Here lies the true romance of the film – although there’s also plenty of sparks flying between Jerry and the sense of family he finds with Dorothy and her son, Ray (the too-cute Jonathan Lipinicki), it’s that old-fashioned quality, its unabashed throwbacks to Frank Capra and Billy Wilder movies, that makes this movie irresistible.
Along with its Best Picture nod, the film got four other Oscar nominations in the fields of acting (for Cruise and Gooding Jr), writing (for Crowe’s Original Screenplay), and editing (for two-time previous winner Joe Hutshing). Down the first of those lines, the characters are perfectly cast, from the top-billed stars to the supporting actors, such as Bonnie Hunt as Dorothy’s eye-rolling protective big sister, Jay Mohr as Jerry’s back-stabbing former protégé and Lipinicki as the none-more-precocious kid. Regina King and the late, great Kelly Preston are marvellous too, perpetually underrated though they are.
Crowe’s script creatively intertwines the disparate romantic comedy and sports drama threads, finding the commonality in what seems like two very separate genres. On the love story side, Jerry can emotionally and even physically be rebutted for throwing a personal Hail Mary, while the American football side is all about rediscovering passion and a love of the game. The editing serves them both, even though it fails to find the quicker, shorter movie that’s somewhere in here.
When all three elements work together, Jerry Maguire is magic. At its best, it’s a quotable, feel-good treat and a modern classic of its admittedly niche genre. Over the years, we’ve observed a pre-couch-jumping Cruise and a post-couch-jumping Cruise, and this is the kind of project you only get before his guard goes up. That makes it all the sweeter that it’s about a flawed man fumbling for redemption, getting it wrong, but directing all of his exorbitant energy in the pursuit of good.
In the end, the film was a box-office smash, becoming the ninth highest-grossing movie at the worldwide box office, and on Oscar night, Cuba Gooding Jr won a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor gong. We don’t know if any of this year’s Oscar results will be as crowd-pleasing as that, but we’ll settle for any of the speeches being even half as enthusiastic.
From its uncynical opening philosophy to its heart-warming finale, Jerry Maguire is a film that lives up to that mission statement and says what it thinks of the world and how we might make it better. It plays with its heart, not its head. And it shows you the money. And yes, it has you at hello. Like that mission statement – how many pages? – it’s too long but, frankly, everything it’s saying is a little bit wonderful.