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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Jerry Maguire (review)

Get a Life

I used to work for The Very Big Corporation of America, where people bragged about how late they had worked the night before, or how many hours they put in on Saturday. They pretended it wasn’t bragging — it was complaining. But the fact was that the people who lived at the office were perceived as harder workers than the ones who managed to get their jobs done during regular business hours.
As far as I’m concerned, if you can’t get your work done between 9 and 5, then you’re either not doing your job right, or (more likely) your office is understaffed and badly managed. There are an awful lot of workplaces that fit that second description these days (I’ve freelanced in a bunch of ’em), and it amazes me that anybody puts up with it. When I hear people talk about 14-hour days, I want to shake them by the lapels and shout, “Don’t you have friends and family you’d rather be spending time with? Don’t you have any interests other than work?”

So I was happy to find that Jerry Maguire (starring Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, and Cuba Gooding Jr.) is about a guy who decides that corporate slavery isn’t enough, and sets out to get a life.

Jerry throws away his job as a sports agent with a big agency when he writes a mission statement that proposes radical things like treating clients more like people than like commodities. Needless to say, it does not go over well with the sharks. He strikes out on his own with Dorothy Boyd (Zellweger), an accountant from the agency, taking only two clients with him.

Jerry makes lots of mistakes, naturally, as he’s trying to find his own way, and it occurred to me as I watched that this isn’t a scenario that usually gets played out in movies. We often see corporate life depicted on the big screen, and we often see people fed up with it, but the typical solution to that usually involves beating the bastards at their own game and ending up with a window office (Working Girl comes to mind). Is the thought of leaving that world behind so alien to most people that we see so few stories about it? Would people rather try to make the best of a bad situation than change the situation?

Much has been made about the entrepreneurial spirit of Generation Xers (of which I am one, along with Jerry and Dorothy). It’s a spirit born more of necessity than anything else, I believe, but there certainly does seem to be an awful lot of young people rejecting received wisdom and creating their own work. I’d love to see more movies like Jerry Maguire, movies that show us that making a life for oneself is not only is it possible but preferable.

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watch at home

MPAA: rated R for language and sexuality

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
posted in:
drama | reviews | sports

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