Jerry Maguire may not be Tom Cruise’s best role (select from Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July or Collateral) but it may be his most defining – every Cruise ‘trademark’ is on display here, as he grins, sprints and gesticulates his way through Cameron Crowe’s rom-com.
The romantic interest here is Renee Zellweger’s ditzy assistant Dorothy. After Jerry is fired from his top sports agent job, she follows him to start a new firm, into which they are followed by his sole client (an Oscar-winning Cuba Gooding Jr). Cue a blossoming relationship, and a riches-rags-riches story (this is very much a film about white upper-middle class problems) as Jerry struggles to return to form in his professional and personal life.
Cruise is matched, if not outdone, in charisma by Gooding Jr (sadly one of those ’whatever happened to him?’ actors), and the scene in which they scream the phrase ‘show me the money!’ to each other has become part of cinema history. Zellweger gets the most out of an unsympathetic part, in which she is reduced to switching abruptly between swooning mode and tortured doubt over their relationship (Jerry is great at friendship, but terrible at intimacy). Meanwhile Jonathan Lipnicki, making his film debut as her six-year-old son, also adds himself to the fray, vying for biggest scene stealer on account of cuteness.
The performances are undoubtedly the highlight of a film that otherwise overexerts itself and occasionally succumbs to eye-rolling cliché. It is overstuffed with subplots, and Crowe seems to find it as difficult as Jerry to manage all of the onscreen relationships, resulting in some rushed plot beats that fail to land in the way they seem intended. The female characters are a little shortchanged, characterised as either shrill, divorced naggers or people brought in for the sake of fancying Jerry (still, Crowe wrote the abysmally misogynistic Fast Times at Ridgemont High, so this film marks significant progress, whilst four years later he would develop further with Almost Famous, featuring Kate Hudson’s fantastic, hypnotic Penny Lane).
For all the plot deficiencies, the script contains some absolute gems – watching this film for the first time, I didn’t realise just how many famous quotes were coined here: ‘you complete me’, ‘you had me at hello’. During Cruise’s final reconciliation speech, it is easy to forgive and forget Jerry Maguire’s flaws and allow yourself to be won over to its charms.