where the writers are

Jerry Maguire should have won the Best Film Academy Award for 1996. Rock’n’roller Cameron Crowe, who wrote Fast Times At Ridgemont High for Rolling Stone, infuses Maguire with some terrific musical selections, including The Who’s raucous version of “Magic Bus” from the “Live at Leeds” album.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. is over-the-top, although an Oscar performance I do not believe he delivers.  That being said, the film breaks some major rules of the American screenwriting paradigm.


First of all, Maguire’s character arc is all in the beginning.  Jerry (Tom Cruise, loosely playing superagent Leigh Steinberg)  “grows a conscience” in the film’s opening sequence, proposing that his company take on fewer clients.  Most films are about the main character arriving at this kind of revelation over a two-hour period.   


The second fault that Jerry Maguire must overcome is the goal of its main characters, which is to make money.  We are asked to feel sorry for Jerry because he is fired, but here is a guy who has made a ton of dough and possesses a law degree.  His only client is Arizona Cardinals “shrimp” wide receiver Rod Strickland (Gooding).  The leap of faith includes the audience’s requirement of empathizing with Strickland, who is on the cusp of stardom playing in a small media market, carries a big attitude, and bitches about money from beginning to end.  He is offered a four-year, $1.7 million deal by the club, and acts as if it is chicken feed.  This begs the questions: How much money would he earn if he was not a pro football player, why are the Cardinals responsible for his never having to work after retirement, and couldn’t you make do with 1.7 mil?  When Strickland leads the Cardinals into the Play-Offs with a big catch to beat Dallas, he is rewarded with a four-year, $11.7 million deal.  Conversely, in today’s financial sports climate, that is not all that much. 


Another hurdle the film is forced to climb is the passive aspect of its star (Cruise) when the going gets tough.  Strickland appears to be paralyzed after his spectacular touchdown grab, but Jerry is a helpless by-stander who can only serve platitudes in his cell phone conversation with Rod's bitchy wife, Marcy.  The star is supposed to be the guy who does something to save the day.   


The real story of Jerry Maguire is the love interest, Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellwegger) and her adorable son, Ray.  She shows loyalty to Jerry, is rewarded with marriage to Tom Cruise, who finally does something when he decides, months after the ceremony, to fall in love with his wife.


This film hit home with this reader particularly, because I was Jerry Maguire, absent the happy ending: A sports agent with one client (a Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder), who in the end lost the client (and big commissions) as a result of my business partner’s obfuscation’s.  In my case, I did not get the girl or the coin, but I got the kwon.  My failure as an agent led to the priceless realization that a writing career is what really makes me happy!  Despite its flaws, Jerry Maguire is a highly entertaining, realistic story, and one of the top sports films ever made.