Jerry Maguire (1996): An Alright Man Learns How to Love Story



“Jerry Maguire,” is one of those films that I would consider the Golden Age (Mid 90’s-Early 2000’s) of Tom Cruise’s career. Back when he could get any movie he wanted where he would be the lead and everyone loved him. He was the action star (“Top Gun,” “Mission Impossible,” “Minority Report,”) but could do the romances too, like this film and “Vanilla Sky.”

How does “Jerry Maguire,” hold up as one of those Golden Era films. Well…there is probably a reason the writer and director Cameron Crowe hasn’t been popping up lately or mentioned as one of the go to greats. I’ll go into more of the why in the assessment, but directing and writing a film is hard…and when there is no one to critique your vision, your vision can come up short on what message or story you are trying to tell.

“Jerry Maguire,” is the story of a sports agent who has a change of heart after one of his clients kids tells him he’s a monster. He writes a mission statement with emphasis on relationship over cash and finds himself fired left only with his coworker Dorthy (Zellweger) and a single client Rod Tidwell (Gooding Jr.). From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Rod Tidwell – Cuba Gooding Jr. is fantastic in this. He owns this role and his passion as the arrogant sports star who is also a loving family man is beautiful. He is the inverse of Jerry and they wrestle with one another on that fact on multiple occasions….and Rod calling Jerry out on how he didn’t care about Rod until Rod was the only option he had left. There relationship starts out as agent and client but because of the work that is put into the relationship they are both able to grow. Rod goes through the fire to achieve his dream of being able to take care of his family.

Dorothy Boyd – I’m putting her as a plus, mostly for the second act. In the second act she stands up to Jerry and gives him the choice. We learn he doesn’t love her, he likes her but he loves her kid and loves being a dad. She has been putting in all the work up to this point and she’s had enough and doesn’t want to live a lie…not after her first marriage. This is handled well, except for the final act.  Her taking control of her life is one of the best parts of this story.

Quotable – “Show me the money!” and a few other memorable quotes come out of this film. This film when it covers the passion of the leads, usually does it really well.

Jerry Maguire – His arc of learning to be a human being is fantastic. Tom Cruise is good at playing that disconnect in most of his roles (minus “Top Gun”) and I can see why he was cast as the lead (Though Gooding Jr. could have done it just as well). His best moments are in the real relationships. His fiance relationship makes no sense and she punches him and the company is faceless. There is only one person there. His relation to these entities didn’t feel real, but that is more the writing and not Cruise. Will explain more later.

Laurel Boyd – Bonnie Hunt should have got more screen time. Her character hosts a divorced women’s group in order for them to move through the relationships they’ve been through, and she is there to protect her sister Dorothy and to hold Jerry accountable. I really liked her character and would have loved to see more scenes with her.

Okay: The Message for Jerry’s Arc or Relationships are Important – This arc is handled decently enough, though one of the other messages detracts from it a bit…but Rod, Jerry and Dorothy succeed when they communicate. This is a good message and it would be a pro if not for the counter to this in some of Jerry’s actions (going back to the house after he’d been asked to leave by Dorothy when they breakup, etc.).

Cons: The Message About Feminism – The Divorced Women’s group is written like a caricature. I think he meant it to be funny since he never gives details of what the women are going through. It is like they are a joke he can’t take seriously because he never accepts there pain, he even mocks women who’ve gone through stalking at one point by having one of the women downplay the event. Not to mention that after standing up for herself, Dorothy wants Jerry the moment he is there even though he has never shown he loves her and told her he only liked her.

The Ending – What I described above. Them getting back together made no sense given what was established about their characters. I think this was to show that Jerry had learned to fully love and be human…but it fell flat. You can do that and not be in a romantic relationship.

Given the cons, I still liked this movie. I can see why it is beloved by so many and I appreciate the pros of it a lot. Especially Bonnie Hunt and Cuba Gooding Jr.’s performance. If you can accept the cons, go ahead and see it. It is an alright story that should have had a better ending, but has a great first 2 acts.

My Final Score for this film 8 / 10.


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