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Empire List #420: Jerry Maguire

When you have a movie where the title is the name of the main character, you can assume a few things off-hand. First, said character is about to encounter a heap of trouble. Second, he will most likely find love, or at least re-deem a relationship. Third, by the end of the movie he will have made some major changes in his life. “Jerry Maguire” follows all of these rules by throwing the life of its protagonist upside down and have try to turn everything right side up. He is like the Coyote in Looney Tunes: if he stops and looks down, he just might realize he is walking on thin air and will fall into a canyon. Sometimes it’s better to keep looking up.

 The funny thing is, the first time I watched this movie I didn’t know I was about to fall down a canyon myself. It was in January of 2003, back when I was still living in Chile. In May my parents and I were going to move back to my native Canada, but first, a father-son trip. My father thought it would a great idea for him to take me to Argentina and take me to see his company’s mining project way up in the mountains. During our stop in Buenos Aires I didn’t have anything to do while he was working in his office, but lucky me he had HBO and “Jerry Maguire” was playing. Now, this is probably some giant cosmic coincidence, but seven months later my parents had broken up, I was starting my last year of high school with no friends, and had no clue of what to do with the rest of my life. Like Maguire, my life had hit a bit of snag.

Tom Cruise plays Jerry Maguire, a sports agent who loves his job, has a gorgeous fiancée who loves the idea of him, and has the advantage of looking like Tom Cruise. Things couldn’t be better until one of his clients suffers a major injury in the field. In the hospital he sees the player’s son who looks at him as though he was the scum of the Earth for pushing his dad too hard. This leads Jerry to write an essay that denounces the dishonesty in his business, which he distributes to everyone in his office. By the applause they give him the next day, it is clear they agree with him…in theory. In practice management has decided to fire him. Not only is he fired in a restaurant so he doesn’t make a scene, but the person doing the firing is Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), Jerry’s protégé.   

Realising he has until the end of the work day to convince his clients to work for him without the support of his company, Jerry rushes to his office and frantically calls everyone on his list before Bob can beat convince them otherwise. He has two hits, but one stands out: Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) an egotistical football player that feels neglected by Jerry. Rod will take a chance with Jerry on the condition that he chants Rod’s motto: SHOW ME THE MONEY! As time runs out, Jerry has no option but to scream that motto at the top of his lungs while the whole office is watching. Appropriately, it pays off.  

Before leaving in semi-defeat, Jerry makes a speech in front of everyone he has worked with for years asking anyone to come and join him to make a new agency. Whether out of pity or possibly attraction, Dorothy Boyd dares to come with Jerry (and the gold fish he steals). Of course it isn’t that easy to re-start your life from the ground up.  Jerry now has to compete with Bob and every agent with a company, manage the un-manageable Rod Tidwell, and deal with the fact that his fiancée will not stay with him now that he is one bad day away from unemployment.

The rest of the movie follows Jerry as he picks up the pieces and forms an uneasy relationship with Dorothy. Director Cameron Crowe, who also wrote the film, shows us a man trying to manage not just an athlete, but also the crisis that is his life. Jerry smiles and keeps saying everything will work out, but damn it, life can be hard. Rod is great at acting like a super star football player, but he is just not that good of a player.

Cuba Gooding Jr. earned his only Oscar for playing Rod and it is well deserved. When he is first introduced he is a manic burst of energy that keeps Jerry on the phone for what seems like hours. When Jerry desperately tries to convince him to try harder, Rod is convinced it is Jerry who is not trying hard enough to sell his talents. Then there are moments where Rod shows deeper sides of his personality by giving Jerry advice on his relationship with Dorothy.

Things will of course work out in the end for Jerry. We don’t go to the movies to see a man throw caution to the wind and then be crushed by reality. We need hope that there is hope and that no matter how bad it gets you can eventually rebuild your life. Cameron Crowe conveys those ideas by having his characters not focus on money and power, but on finding true friends and on finding that special someone that you can look in the eyes and say: “You complete me.” The man’s a dreamer. Nothing wrong with that.

Years after seeing “Jerry Maguire” I am yet to find a person who completes me, but like Jerry I am picking up the pieces. Life is not a movie, but that shouldn’t stop from grabbing that gold fish and taking a chance on myself.  


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