Football has long been the inspiration for some of Hollywood’s finest and most horrific movies. Throughout the offseason, The Go Route contributing writer Brendan O’Hare will recap some of these football-related films. This week, Jerry Maguire.
The first time I saw Jerry Maguire I was in 10th grade, and for whatever reason, it was being shown in a Business Law & Ethics class. I don’t remember a whole lot, but I remember it being extremely sappy and therefore required me to try my best not to cry and get picked on by upperclassmen who would have hopped on any sign of weakness in a millisecond.
LOOK AT ME NOW, OLDER KIDS. I WRITE ON COMPUTERS.
Jerry Maguire is inspired by the life of super-agent Leigh Steinberg, who was recently profiled in a Sports Illustrated article which is just depressing as hell. Steinberg became bankrupt and an alcoholic and got arrested a few times, so the piece is all about Steinberg's attempt to return to the top. The movie is Steinberg's life pre-personal apocalypse, and even though it is filled to the brim with emotions, it doesn't come close to what actually happened to Steinberg.
If anything, Jerry Maguire is more about the stereotype of the mega-agent and how Maguire tries to go against the mold, rather than an accurate representation of Steinberg's life.
The eternal debate with this movie is whether or not it is a “chick flick” or a “sports movie.” Obviously, this is like, SO stupid, because it’s just a movie, you know? A preference of one movie shouldn’t determine whether or not you are a man or a scared little woman.
Why does everything have to be so black and white? Maybe a movie exists that can be categorized into two genres? Just because the film is about sports doesn’t mean it should be totally void of feeling. Besides, would anyone call Rocky, a film far more egregious with its use of emotion, a chick flick? I’m pretty sure the whole movie is just Rocky and Adrian ice skating for two hours.
Anyway, the movie starts and Jerry (played by scientologist Tom Cruise) is talking immediately. Like through the opening opening credits; you know, the ones where the producing companies are being named? Just shut up, Jer, the movie hasn’t even begun yet.
He’s talking about how “America still sets the tone for the world” and somehow relates this to young athletic phenoms. Maybe he doesn’t know they exist in other countries as well. Maguire then goes on a brief tangent about the football-playing prowess of his initial true love, college quarterback and potential number one pick Frank Cushman (played by Jerry O’Connell).
Ohhhh, Frank Cushman, let me scribble your name in my legal pad with the NFL team-licensed pen of your choice.
“I’m the guy you don’t usually see,” says Jerry, in a pre-Drew Rosenhaus/Scott Boras world. Is he going to be narrating the whole 139 minutes? He’s talking kind of fast, so maybe this is a good omen for the rest of the movie? He then starts talking to other humans, but SUPER fast. Quick, snappy dialogue, BECAUSE HE’S AN AGENT and that’s how they all talk. And no conversation is complete without a patented T-Cruise smile, ever-present during Cruise’s talks with other human beings he is trying to sell things to.
He begins wondering about the morality of his work, climaxing in a meeting with an NHL player who, according to his kid, is on his fourth concussion. The kid confronts Jerry in a hallway, and wonders aloud who will be the one to stick up for his almost brain-dead father.
He closes the conversation with a very adult “F--k you” and flipping the bird, showing a wisdom well beyond whatever years he has. Still talking about the kid. Maguire just kind of stands there.
Maguire goes home and has what he describes as a “Breakdown? Breakthrough?”, but we’ll just call it a breakdown because that is what it is. He has dreams of swimming in water (like a SHARK would), then wakes up in a cold sweat. Naturally, he goes to his laptop and starts typing away, creating some kind of manifesto like the Unabomber did.
His mission statement (NOT a memo, as he repeatedly insists) contains such genius breakthroughs as “Let us be honest” and “Fewer clients. Less money.” What a revolutionary, and he passes around copies to literally everyone in his office, because whenever I have an unedited manuscript that challenges the tenets of everything my profession stands for, everyone needs to see ASAP.
He comments that it might be a little “touchy-feely,” as if director Cameron Crowe is doing some meta-foreshadowing about the rest of the movie. At least I perceived it that way. It’s titled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business.” The fact that agents never think, “Maybe we should be honest,” probably qualifies them as the worst people in the world.
He gets a standing ovation for saying “let’s be honest” in 25 pages, because if there is one thing agents are about, it certainly is not being succinct. Maguire then hops on a first-class plane, and we get our first look at the coach-sitting Renee Zellweger (whose character name is Dorothy Boyd, a fact I didn’t realize until looking at Wikipedia just now).
And who else is sitting next to her, but her adorable son Ray (played by Jonathan Lipnicki) who is the BEST! The absolute best. He’s allergic to blankets (<33333333)! AHHHHHHHHHH. I cannot overstate enough how adorable he IS. Look! If my kid doesn’t look like Ray, I am taking him back.
The class separation is immediately and obviously noted. She’s in coach; he’s in first class. SO different. But that’s not stopping Dorothy, who hears a conversation Jerry is having with some lady about how he proposed to his fiancee. She literally falls out of her seat in deep concentration, and is in love via his beautiful voice talking about the most one percent way to propose to someone: climbing a mountain and then proposing with NFL players watching and an ESPN crew filming.
Dorothy then tells Ray, “First class is what’s wrong. It used to be a better meal, not a better life.” Yeesh, quit trying to bring Ray down with you. Ray’s laughter/face/state of being brings her back to her initial state of maternal stress.
The scene then cuts to Dorothy, crazy worried because she managed to lose Ray, literally the only thing she was responsible for on the plane. Luckily, he’s just riding the baggage claim giving high-fives to other travelers because he is just THE CUTEST. I make that muffled Pete Holmes laugh (listen to You Made It Weird No. 13 to understand what I mean) whenever Ray is on screen, a noise I didn’t think I was capable of. I just go “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee” and smile and am happy I’m watching by myself.
She encounters Jerry, who helps her find Ray. She raves about his manifesto (she coincidentally works in his office) and a romantic connection is created! Probably.
Jerry goes to his bachelor party right after, and is forced to watch a video his friends created of all of his past romantic conquests saying he “can’t be alone” and that he fakes intimacy. Jerry’s friends suck. Just to prove this last sentence, Jerry’s protege Bob Sugar (played by Jay Mohr) fires him at a crowded restaurant. Jerry runs back to his office and tries to reclaim all of his clients, but since no one wants an insane agent on the lam, they all stay with Bob Sugar and his budding enterprise.
The only client Jerry can keep is Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), whose like, second sentence on screen is, “I’M SWEATIN' DUDE.” There are so many catchphrases that come out of this movie, and the fact that that isn’t one frustrates me to no end. Rod likes to talk and thinks he’s important, despite him being a slot receiver for the Arizona Cardinals who is prone to head injuries. His house is falling apart, he never stops talking and Jerry loses all of his clients because Rod just won’t shut up and go on hold.
Then “SHOW ME THE MONEY” happens, which is Rod’s family’s motto for some stupid reason. Why is he yelling all the time? Is there a gas leak in his house? Jerry yells that phrase like a malfunctioning robot a few times, and Rod decides to stay with Jerry Maguire Management Enterprises.
Once Rod is secured, Jerry gives a passionate speech to the rest of the office he was fired from (it’s been hours, and security still hasn’t asked him to leave). He says there is “such a thing as manners,” a weird thing to say for a man who just tried to stage a revolution in a business.
He then steals some fish and Dorothy is the only one who decides to come with Jerry on his magical adventure back to prominence, because Dorothy is in love and doesn’t have time to be concerned with things like, “Is leaving a cushy job to work with someone who just had a mental breakdown the best thing for a single mother to do?”
They go to an elevator, witness a deaf guy sign “you complete me” to his girl, and begin phase one of their spontaneous adventure. Cushman—whose nickname is “Kush,” which today probably would cause ESPN to fall to its knees in disgust—decides to stay with Jerry, which is nice. Jerry visits the Kush fam, and says Denver wants him at the top choice. I guess John Elway doesn’t exist in this world, which later reveals Troy Aikman does? Whatever.
At this point, I’m starting to realize every Tom Cruise character is just the Louis CK character from "Hilarious" that tries too hard to be liked and has a bunch of weird gestures. Anyway, the trio of Ray-Jerry-Dorothy are together and Ray says, “DID YOU KNOW THE HUMAN HEAD WEIGHS EIGHT POUNDS?” Ahhhhh, so cute, but why do you know that, Ray? Shouldn’t you be making friends and not reading anatomy textbooks?
“DID YOU KNOW MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR HAS THREE RABBITS?” Maguire responds, “I can’t even compete with that.” Really, Jer? Maybe that’s why you got fired. Because you can’t compete with that. You literally could have said anything.
Jerry thinks it’s a good idea for Rod to come to the NFL draft with him, so Rod obliges because he has nothing else to do. Immediately, Rod is jealous because he’s not getting any attention, which is such an absurd complaint because this event is about NFL prospects, not NFL players.
Mel Kiper Jr. inexplicably shows up at one point and it’s revealed Bob Sugar got Kush a deal. Just a horrible couple of minutes for everyone involved. Kush’s dad didn’t like that Jerry was spending all of his time with a black man (Rod) and not with his son, so he moved on to someone else. Oh darn. Leigh Steinberg wouldn't have stood for this nonsense.
Jerry is pissed, and finds his fiancee setting up programs (I never understand what she does—she does all these menial tasks, but later she’s in a luxury box giving Jerry the loser sign). They break up because Jerry realizes she has no emotions.
Yay, now Dorothy has a chance. Isn’t this exciting? What do you mean no?
For some reason, Rod is still with Jerry in spite of what just happened. He’s too concerned with the thoughts in his head to notice Jerry is a shell of a human being. Jerry arrives drunk to Dorothy’s house, preceded by a scene of her sister saying “He better not be good looking.”
OH HE IS. Did Tom Cruise write that line? Jesus.
He says, “I broke up with Avery” blahblahblah, Avery tries to comfort him...whatever. THEN RAY COMES HIM IN LOOK AT HIS GLASSES THEY’RE TOO BIG FOR HIS HEAD AHHHHHH HE SAID THE HUMAN HEAD THING AGAIN (don’t you have other material?) LOOK AT HIM GAHHHHEEEEEEEEE. I don’t remember if he does, but I really hope Ray doesn’t die. I can’t live in that world.
Dorothy then talks to Jerry alone on the couch, then drunk Jerry goes for the classy kiss/boob grab/panicked CAB IS HERE move. He worries about some “Clarence Thomas” nonsense for a moment, but remembers he falls into the category Tom Brady did in that SNL skit.
The night passes, and Jerry visits Arizona and is unable to raise his only client’s contract. Rod makes up a word (“Kwan”) to inspire Jerry, but since it has no real meaning because Rod made it up, it doesn’t matter. Rod is just a little whiny child; Ray is more mature. He does laugh at Jerry’s “Help me help you” speech, because who wouldn’t.
Jerry goes back home to awkwardly encounter Dorothy and apologize for the previous night. “We can’t have atmosphere,” he says, and Dorothy makes a sad. Then there’s nightfall, and another night of Divorced Women Venting at the Boyd household. These women never leave poor Dorothy’s house, mainly because her weird sister is always there holding these events.
Jerry crashes this, and Ray gives him a hug. HE’S THE ONE, says hysterical Dorothy. They go on a date, contradicting the no atmosphere policy from before. When they get home, they passionately kiss on Dorothy’s doorstep. Jerry takes off her coat and basically tries to get it on in the front yard. Don’t they know Ray would see? He sees everything; this would scar him for life.
They then have sex in the house to the babysitter’s jazz music. What if Ray walked in? Would Rod be jealous? Why is Dorothy’s sister listening to them make love while smoking and eating their takeout? They eventually wake up, and Jerry hears Dorothy being all sappy to her sister down the hall. Awwwwwww snap. It’s on now. Jerry ignores this and talks to Ray like an adult.
Rod and Jerry get another crappy offer from the Cardinals, due to what I can only assume is Jerry being a crappy agent. Rod and his wife reject the offer, which is risky because if Rod gets hurt, he gets nothing. Jerry has no say in this.
Fast forward to Jerry and Rod walking back from a car commercial shoot Rod screwed up, and Rod tells Jerry he needs to talk to Dorothy about the future and what they are going to do.
This is definitely a chick flick.
How is Jerry not punching Rod in the face? Again, would Leigh Steinberg have been down for Rod's incessant B.S? Dorothy now has to take a job in San Diego because Rod was a petulant child at the shoot, prohibiting Jerry from getting commission that would have kept his “business” afloat.
Jerry goes home and the U-Haul truck is there with sad Ray in the front seat. Jerry is then like, “Uhhhhh yo let’s get married so we can cut down on costs or something cuz you’re leaving which sucks but like RAY IS TOO.” Dorothy’s sister is mad for whatever reason, and then the scene cuts to the wedding and Ray is the ring bearer and he keeps messing up gaheeeeeeeeee. THE CUTEST.
I guess this all happened in one day, and Jerry could suddenly afford a freaking wedding. Whatever, facts don’t matter! They watch the wedding video, and Dorothy realizes Jerry looks like he realized he made a huge mistake for the entire duration of the video.
Then actual football happens, and Rod isn’t doing too hot. Jerry confronts him in the hallway after a game and says Rod needs to play the game from his heart, a weird thing for a guy to say after he just admitted to marrying out of “loyalty.”
Rod is sad, and now they aren’t friends which will probably just get resolved soon because the movie is almost over. Rod starts playing hard during this montage, which is nice, and now they are friends again.
Dorothy realizes Ray is the real reason why Jerry married her, and confronts him by saying, “I deserve your soul.” Chilllllll Dorothy. You’ve been married what, a week? She implies Jerry is incapable of love and storms out, so Jerry responds by staring at Ray for the whole night, because why not?
Jerry flies to Phoenix for Rod’s game because Rod is “all he’s got.” Dan Dierdorf is doing the color for this game. Ugh, can’t I escape him for a day? Rod scores and gets MESSED up by a few defenders, and Jerry runs on the field, where he calls Rod’s wife and tells her to calm down. But in a nicer way than I described. He says the finest doctors are attending to him.
Actual quote from the doctor: “IT COULD BE THE NECK OR THE BACK. *CLAPS HANDS* WAKE UP.” Rod’s in good hands, no one worry.
Rod does wake up and does a touchdown dance that easily should have had him kicked out of the game and maybe even the league. But now people are paying attention to him! Yay! After the game Rod is mobbed by reporters and gets a call from his wife, which reminds Jerry that he has a wife, too.
Jerry flies home in the most improbable distortion of time ever. As Bill Simmons wrote in a mailbag for Grantland a few months ago:
We already covered this in a 2005 mailbag, but screw it, let's run it back: In the movie's climax, Tidwell's breakout game happens in Phoenix and probably finishes around 9:30 p.m. West Coast time (Monday Night Football started at 9:00 p.m. EST back then). Maguire sticks around for the postgame interviews (another 45 minutes easy) and suddenly realizes that he needs to tell Dorothy Boyd he loves her. He sprints out of the stadium and drives to the airport (another 45 minutes), purchases a ticket, checks his bag (pre-9/11, so this could have happened quickly) and hops on a midnight flight back to Los Angeles (a flight that doesn't currently exist, but whatever). It's a 150-minute flight but you gain a time zone, so let's say Jerry lands at 1:30 a.m. PST, takes a parking shuttle to his car (another 15 minutes), then drives home (another 20 to 25 minutes), gets home no early than 2:10 a.m. and inadvertently interrupts Dorothy Boyd's "I hate men" support group … which was apparently in its seventh or eighth straight hour, with everyone wide awake. That would have been the biggest flaw of any 1990s movie if not for 6-foot-5 Andy Dufresne fitting so snugly into the Warden's suit.
I do think Simmons underestimates the power of that support group—it seems like they have it every day and never run out of crap to talk about. Anyway, Jerry and Dorothy are reunited. “You complete me,” says Jerry. “You had me at hello,” says Dorothy. These are the worst people in the world.
Then Rod gets his contract, a higher offer than expected. Oh boy. The movie ends with the trio of Jerry-Dorothy-Ray walking in the park after they went to the zoo. Ray throws a foul ball he finds like a discus onto a baseball field, and it is assumed Jerry becomes his baseball stage dad. A beautiful ending.
This isn’t a horrible movie, albeit a tremendously overly-sentimental one. I’ll give it three-and-a-half out of five Jonathan Lipnicki glasses.