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  • Andres Benatar

Jerry Maguire - The Movie

An Analysis Of Jerry Maguire

It’s interesting to look at a film that is named after the full name of the central character. A multitude of ideas can flow as to what it will essentially be about. The case of a drama like Jerry Maguire, although labeled a romantic drama, is more about how we value ourselves as individuals.

It’s hard seeing anyone other than Tom Cruise playing the role. His charisma and his dynamism only elevate the equally dynamic nature of a character who tries to live life in a somewhat fulfilling and equally chaotic fashion. The story of Jerry Maguire is about a sports agent, and like any industry that involves some level of celebrity management, it comes with its own measure of moral ambiguity.

Any type of business within the entertainment sector, be it film or sports-related is about allocating a particular level of capital and clientele. But when it becomes more of a management job where damage control is so routine that any health/safety concerns for the players center around what use they’ll be following a major injury, then it can only paint the person as a soulless parasite.

In Jerry Maguire’s case, “another shark in a suit” who can’t even sell himself to a ten-year-old boy willing to say “Fuck you” right before storming off to be with the player that is their parent, who the agent should've been looking out for. Most people would easily shake that little incident as a simple mishap. In the case of Jerry, it essentially forces him to further confront the stark reality many people who work in soulless high-paying jobs don’t often do - that is, they realize the utter lack of love they have for themselves.

It could be argued that a sports drama like Jerry Maguire is a feel-good film. But then again, feel-good films are often misinterpreted as films where no major lessons can be taken.

Now, although Jerry Maguire does suffer from a rather disjointed level of voice-over narrations that could've had a little more consistency in the narrative, it ultimately works in pointing out an element that feel-good films could benefit from, aside from being enjoyably pleasant films that rarely have any stakes. In the case of the titular character Jerry Maguire, the stake is his own sense of self-worth and how much he truly values himself. Not just by what he stands up for, but how he views himself in comparison to how other characters look at themselves.

In addition to the incredible performance Tom Cruise gives, which some critics would view as a caricature of the dynamic entertainment persona he usually captures, both Cuba Gooding Jr. and Renee Zellweger make their own characters, Rod Tidwell and Dorothy Boyd excellent extensions of the main theme of the narrative, and how it relates to how a person initially looks at themselves.

Rodney Tidwell: The Antagonist

If every film has a protagonist, in this case, being Jerry, then it’s only natural that it would be accompanied by the antagonist. However, it would be a simplistic thing to look at some of the more malicious characters within Jerry Maguire such as his rival sports agent Robert Sugar (Jay Mohr) or his ex-fiance Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston), and say they were the antagonists.

But that all goes back to the misconception of how the antagonist is often perceived as a villainous force when really it is more about a character who just happens to hold an opposing view in relation to the protagonist from who the story the perspective is often told from. When looking at Rod Tidwell, Jerry’s final lifeline of a client, it would be bizarre to see him as an antagonistic force outside of his classic overly aggressive “Show me the money” speech, which no doubt helped elevate the electrifying nature of a character Cuba Gooding Jr. embodied even on the onset of his 1996 Best Supporting Actor Oscar victory.

Rod works as an antagonistic force in the differences he holds with his agent Jerry and how they further strengthen the purpose of Jerry’s journey towards self-acceptance. Like many talents, be it sport, film, or any type of noteworthy pursuit, Rod feels undervalued, despite knowing his own value as a person.

In fact, he knows this too well that it serves as a prideful crotch that paints him as arrogant and in need of the humility needed to make the self-respect he sees within himself as something more than just a man who is a ticking time bomb of rage every time he feels his agent comes up short. But he is an antagonist in the sense of how similar he works in regards to Jerry, but also how he very much like an antagonist, ends up changing the protagonist and vice versa.

The Common Misconception Of Pride

Whenever someone is accused of being prideful, it’s understandable to see where they are coming from in judging someone who is being belligerently arrogant. However, too much confidence in this particular level of criticism can often bring people to misconceive what pride really is, and how it is more about self-love and initially how one respects themselves.

One downside of the ways in which we look at pride is that we often deem it as merely an expression of arrogant narcissism, which it can be. But Jerry Maguire is really about finding that very middle ground as it tells the story of people who are able to love themselves enough to recognize the value within themselves as human beings.

This concept is expressed through characters like Jerry, Rod, and Dorothy who is perfect given her youth, and her place as a struggling single mother who willfully gives up her job to follow the moralistic approach Jerry Maguire takes in being his own independent agent. Her optimistic belief in his moral integrity could easily be seen as hokey and even corny.

But then again, her belief that she finally felt like she was a part of something perfectly reflects on the element of self-worth that remains as the framework of the film’s main theme. Dorothy’s optimism also works as a perfect criticism of how corporatized entertainment actively crushes any sign of individually, which is pretty much the first step in a person being able to recognize their worth so that they can truly love themselves and the person they aspire to be.

Jerry Maguire is a feel-good film, or at least, what a feel-good film should be. Learning to see the value a person brings is difficult. For that to happen, looking deep within is important and essential if they are to truly grasp what value they ultimately deliver in the long run of their existence.

Most feel-good films rarely aspire to that, and sadly that is often the result of either unwarranted melodrama mistaken as the elements needed for a valid identity crisis, or simply a lack of focus regarding how a feel-good film needs to be more about simply having an emotionally pleasant ending. It should always be about the people and how they truly feel about themselves following the very confrontation that helped further make them realize what they were truly worth in the beginning and at the end of the journey that made their name, worthy of the film’s title.

Want more movies? Check these out:

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Andres Benatar is resident film expert. You can hear him on the 'Cinema 237' podcast - A podcast for cinephiles.

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