Directed by: Cameron Crowe. Starring: Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr. Runtime: 2h 19 min. Released: December 13, 1996.
The titular Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a sports agent on top of the world, working for a huge sports agency called Sports Management International (SMI). When one of his clients sustains his fourth concussion, Jerry only cares about getting him back out there so he can make more money. It’s an industry that puts the business first – not the interest of the players.
He has a moral epiphany and writes a mission statement that calls for less clients and less profit so the client can be cared for. Since this industry is all about the money, he’s fired and colleague Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) poaches all but one of Maguire’s clients, leaving Jerry with only Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.). With that, Jerry starting his own company and bringing his former secretary, Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger) along for the ride.
Jerry Maguire turns out to be an inspirational story about standing up for what you believe in, even if that means jeopardizing your entire career. It’s great watching Jerry go from someone cynical to someone that opens up throughout the film. His fear of being alone is also something that’s well-developed throughout.
Helping make him a better person is Dorothy, a single mom to Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki in his feature debut) and the chemistry in this trio is really charming. Zellweger is fantastic in her role, as is Cruise, and the acting is one of the strongest aspects of Jerry Maguire in a film chock-full of them. By the way, the romantic chemistry here is steamy, especially in one scene on a porch.
Cuba Gooding Jr. is phenomenal, too, in his Oscar-winning role as Tidwell, a hot-headed wide receiver who just wants to get paid as he repeatedly says the film’s most famous line, “Show me the money!” He plays the persona of cocky NFL wide receiver well while being hilarious and consistently engaging.
I don’t find him cocky to a point of obnoxiousness because he always has a point, and he’s trying to get his money because he’s a great player. He has an attitude problem, and he’s hungry for attention throughout the film because he doesn’t feel like he ever gets his due. He also wants his money because of the reality that he’s getting older and he only has so many years left to nab a big contract so he can set he and his family up for life. Regina King is also a highlight as his wife, Marcee. There’s a point where he seems to get injured, and the tension in this scene is palpable and frankly scary because you root for Ray.
The chemistry is great between Cruise and Zellweger – and her joy is really endearing and heartwarming throughout – but the friendship between Jerry and Ray is something special to watch. It’s an honest, great friendship and we see that something this personal isn’t commonplace in the agent-to-client dynamic.
The relationship is like this because Ray is Jerry’s last client and that’s what makes him fight so hard, but the fight is realistic and passionate, desperate even, and it grows into an authentic friendship bigger than being shown the money. I also love the sports side of this film and learning more about the agency side of sports, and how it ticks, is fascinating to me.
The other shining aspect of this film is Cameron Crowe’s flawless direction and amazing writing. The scenes are consistently interesting and the pacing is strong. The only time he ever gets in his own way is during the big romantic drama moment and in Jerry’s big plea, there’s a dramatic zoom and he says, “We live in a cynical, cynical world.” That took me out of the moment slightly because it just didn’t seem to fit within the monologue, but it didn’t take me out of it too much because I knew this was the big moment where Dorothy says, “You had me at ‘hello.’”
It’s an iconic scene and the writing really is great when there are two of the best movie quotes in this. I just loved this film and I’m glad I finally watched it. Tom Cruise is great as Maguire, and the supporting cast is just stellar, Bonnie Hunt included as Dorothy’s sister. I really thought Renée Zellweger was the heart of this film. Jonathan Lipnicki is also adorable as her son, and just about everything he says is funny. I’ll leave you with this: Did you know the human head weights eight pounds?