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Historical Circuit: Tom Cruise Shows Us the Kwan in 1996’s ‘Jerry Maguire’

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Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise in 1996's "Jerry Maguire"
TriStar’s “Jerry Maguire”

TITLE OF FILM: “Jerry Maguire”
DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe
WRITER: Cameron Crowe
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger, Bonnie Hunt, Regina King, Jay Mohr, Kelly Preston, Beau Bridges, Jerry O’Connell, Jonathan Lipnicki


After achieving great professional success as a sports agent, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a breakdown, or what he would call a breakthrough. While away at a conference, Jerry has a restless night. He comes to the realization that he hates his place in the world. Wanting to change the status quo in the sports agency business and in his own life, Jerry writes a mission statement.

The statement is meant as a guide for a more humanistic approach to the business. But the mission is met with little enthusiasm by those in charge. Jerry is fired from his job, and he must scramble to maintain some sense of status.

Inspired by his “memo” and in love from afar, accountant and single mom Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger) quits her job to join Jerry for the start of a new company. Jerry also manages to keep a single client. Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a football player for the Arizona Cardinals, devoted to his family and obsessed with making bank. With so few in his corner, Jerry must decide if he is capable of becoming the man he wants to be. Or was it all for nothing?


Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire

Cameron Crowe (Oscar-winning writer/director of 2000’s “Almost Famous”) wrote and directed “Jerry Maguire” with a tremendous amount of heart. Crowe is a fantastic writer. He has the ability to string words together so beautifully that it reminds me of poetry. In many instances, it may not seem believable that anyone could possibly be that clever or that sensitive or that extemporaneous to have such a response, but somehow these moments work. Crowe writes the line, the actor delivers the line, and the audience believes the character’s motivation behind the line because it is moving. And moments like that, moments that feed the soul, are as true as they come.

Music is an incredibly important aspect in all of Crowe’s films, and “Jerry Maguire” is no exception. His musical choices help elevate great moments throughout. Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” is a melodic bookmark for the beginning and the end of Jerry and Dorothy’s relationship. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Free Fallin’” is an anthem that marks a victorious moment for Jerry. Rickie Lee Jones’ “The Horses” expresses the longing dreams of Dorothy and her son. And Heart’s Nancy Wilson (Cameron Crowe’s then-wife) composed a lovely, light-hearted strum on the guitar for the film’s theme.

“Jerry Maguire” is an actor’s piece, through and through. Regina King (Oscar winner from 2018’s “If Beale Street Could Talk) is strong as Rod’s devoted wife. Bonnie Hunt steals scenes as Dorothy’s disapproving sister. Oscar winner Renée Zellweger (“Cold Mountain” (2002)) is sweet as Dorothy, who shows such patience as she waits for Jerry to fall in love with her long after the audience already has. And Jonathan Lipnicki is adorable as her young son.

At the center of this ensemble are Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise. Gooding Jr. delivers an astonishingly powerful and energetic performance as Rod Tidwell. His character is infectious, and his performance manages to be realistically over-the-top. As the title character, Cruise gives one of the best performances of his extensive career. He lays it all out on the table and shines in every moment.


“Jerry Maguire” is not a new story. It is about a deeply flawed man trying to discover his humanity. The film starts with Jerry declaring his professional aspirations with a true sense of eagerness, but he flounders when this new life (that he essentially asked for) is forced upon him. Jerry is a product of overproduction. He struggles with commitment because he has never had to commit to just one person. There is always someone else on the sidelines.

When Jerry finds himself in one-on-one relationships with Rod and Dorothy, he is unsure of his place. He has built an entire life around faking emotions. Jerry is under the persuasion that if he lives the life, that his desire for that life will come eventually. What Jerry ultimately learns is that it takes more than simply putting yourself in a situation to make a true change. Lowering walls and forming personal connections with people is what will provide true contentment in this cynical world.


Cuba Gooding Jr.

Released on December 13th, 1996, “Jerry Maguire” opened number one at the box office, and would go on to make over $270 million worldwide. It was the ninth highest grossing film of the year, and it is the fourth highest-grossing romantic drama of all-time (Box-Office Mojo).

The film was lauded when it was released. David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, “We’ve been down this path of self-discovery with Cruise before, but Crowe’s movie is a lot less predictable than you’d expect. What sets “Jerry Maguire” above any other romantic comedy this year is Crowe’s writing.” Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, “So “Jerry Maguire” moves unpredictably through its tale of comeuppance and redemption, but it never loses its bearings. Disarming acting, colorful writing and true generosity of spirit keep it right on track.”

The film received three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and three Golden Globe nominations (with Tom Cruise winning Best Actor in a Comedy). At the Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Supporting Actor (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and Best Picture. Gooding Jr. won gold.

Since its release, the film has made a lasting impression. The American Film Institute listed two lines from “Jerry Maguire” in their list of the Top 100 Movie Quotes Of All Time- “Show me the money!” at #25 and “You had me at hello.” at #52. In 2010, the Writers Guild of America voted Cameron Crowe’s script the 66th greatest screenplay of all time.


Most of Cameron Crowe’s films follow a similar pattern of a man trying to discover his true self in a chaotic world. His most recent endeavor, 2015’s “Aloha,” is another example of this. The film is about a military contractor (Bradley Cooper) who comes to Hawaii on assignment. There he reconnects with an ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) and finds himself falling for a Navy pilot (Emma Stone). Despite the strong cast and the proven Crowe, “Aloha” is an imperfect film that never finds its footing.

A non-Cameron Crowe film that tackles self-discovery and self-reclamation is “Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). It tells the story of a man (Steve Carrell) who reexamines his life with the help of a womanizer (Ryan Goslings) after his wife (Julianne Moore) cheats on him. It is a wonderful film about the changes people make in their lives in order to live the life they truly want.


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Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger

“Jerry Maguire” is about the stress, anxiety and heartache that tend to overwhelm life at times. Although it is a film grown from this place of fear we all experience in our search for validation, it ultimately finds its footing in joy. This is a film that is designed to propagate happiness and hopefulness. “Jerry Maguire” acknowledges just how challenging and confusing life can be, but as each character in the film supports one another, leans on one another, fights for one another, they fall in love with one another and gain confidence in themselves. Whether viewed in 1996 or in 2019, “Jerry Maguire” asks you to find the love in the game.

“Jerry Maguire” can be found to rent/buy on Amazon Prime, Fandango, VUDU, Play Station, You Tube, Apple or Google Play.

What are your thoughts on “Jerry Maguire”? Let us know in the comment section below!


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Written by Jessica White

Jessica White studied film and theater at California State University, Sacramento graduating in 2009 with a B.A.. Upon graduation, she shifted her focus towards healthcare and became a dentist, graduating from the Oregon Health and Science University in 2017. She is actively serving in the United States Navy overseas, but continues to feed her passion for the visual arts, her first love.


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Great breakdown! I think a lot moviegoers (and filmmakers) would benefit from revisiting this film — they don’t make these layered adult dramadies like they used to.


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