Jerry Maguire turned TWENTY last week. (News Flash: We’re old.) Jerry will forever remind me of a simpler time. A time when we had no idea JUST how crazy Tom Cruise was. A time where articles weren’t written about what Renee Zellweger did or didn’t do to her face. A time where Cameron Crowe didn’t write casually racist movies like Aloha. And a time where a joyfully comic performance like Cuba Gooding Jr.’s could be given the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. 1996, amirite?
When I was in college, I think I went through at least 5 copies of Jerry Maguire on VHS. (VHS YOU GUYS.) Why? Because people kept borrowing it from me and never bringing it back. Rather than hunt down the lost copy, I would simply buy a new one, hoping that the borrower got as much joy out of Jerry that it gave me. Twenty years later, my DVD lending system may be much more stringent, but my love of Jerry Maguire hasn’t lessened. I’ll always have a soft spot for the movie. I will forever love and quote the script. The performances remain among my favorites of the cast’s careers. It’s such a PERFECT little time capsule of the late 90s, yet it’s JUST as relevant in 2016. That’s how you know a movie is a treasure. — Kim
At 13, I convinced my parents through effective whining to let me watch Jerry Maguire on video. The only caveat is that they had to fast-forward through Avery and Jerry’s athletic sex scene. I was such a lame kid that I would fast-forward through it even when I watched it alone. But my tragic lack of rebelliousness is neither here nor there.
I’ve loved Jerry Maguire for two decades, though my relationship to it has changed. Every time I watch it, I find something different. And while I’m sure the love story (and a still-dreamy Tom Cruise) were the draw back in 1996, now I’m more into its psychoanalysis of its kind-of pathetic hero. Jerry Maguire is a sports movie. It also qualifies as a CHRISTMAS movie. And damn it, the script holds up. –Sage
Jerry Maguire is packed with life lessons and cautionary tales. On its anniversary, we’re sharing the advice we’ve gleaned from this Cameron Crowe classic.
1) “Breakdown? BreakTHROUGH.”
There’s a very practical reason why the general rule is sleep on an angry email before sending it. That rule extends to manifestos born out of night sweats and pizza that’s turned. Jerry’s epiphany was a long time coming, and it’s great that he located his missing soul. But perhaps he could have been the TEENSIEST bit more thoughtful about the roll-out. (Are 24 Hour copy centers good or bad for our society? DISCUSS.) Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Fake Kinko’s Jesus: “That’s how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there.” Jerry puts his name on his mission statement. He stands behind it. (Well, until Bob Sugar begins the firing process.) But, like, what if he eased in his message and worked to change SMI from within? What if he eventually took it over and gave it the integrity it was lacking? Instead, a typed and bound transcript of his visit from the Ghost Of Super Bowls Past burned every one of Jerry’s bridges.
Just….save the draft. Revisit it later once you’ve cooled down. And don’t, under any circumstances, compare yourself to J.D. Salinger. –Sage
2) Ask if there is a Health Plan first.
First of all, who HASN’T been fired and dreamed of having a Jerry Maguire style meltdown as you gloriously tell the assholes who fired you just where to stick it? When I got fired from my last job, the thought very much crossed my mind before I decided they weren’t WORTH the Jerry. (Plus, I was determined to not let them see me cry, but that is another story.) ANYWAY, if you’re gonna go down, go down in a blaze of glory, I say.
HOWEVER…maybe take a moment to think before you give up your own (boring) job to follow the person who is going down in said blaze of glory. No one wants to go with Jerry, not even the people who worked closest with him for years. Hell, the fish don’t even want to go with him. But in a moment of madness (or inspiration), Dorothy Boyd quits her very comfortable job to follow Jerry out the door. Dorothy talks a LOT in the movie about wanting to be inspired. (How very Millenial of her. Wait. DID CAMERON CROWE MAKE MILLENIALS?) She’s at a dead-end accounting job that does nothing to stimulate her soul. Dorothy saw passion in Jerry through reading his mission statement and it was a passion that she found herself wanting to follow, even if he had no idea what the fuck he was doing. (I think the moment of kindness he showed her in the airport has a LOT to do with it too.) It’s both an incredibly bold and an incredibly stupid move. Passion and inspiration don’t pay the bills. Nor do they get you (and your son) health insurance. You know what scene I want to see? I want to see the moment Dorothy gets in her car after she asked Jerry about a health plan. Was she relieved she had left her boring job or was she having a “FUCK what did I just do?” moment? Methinks it was probably the latter. — Kim
3) “I’m too strong for you. Loser.”
Jerry Maguire wants us to believe that Avery is a bad person. The older I get, the more I appreciate Avery and the more I am like “Yo, Avery is just trying to live her life and Jerry’s the one getting in the way.” Think about it. She’s in the middle of a very high-pressure day at work when Jerry comes to her whining about losing Cush. He’s all “Comfort me, pay attention to ME, I am the most important” and she’s just trying to get her JOB DONE. And THEN when she’s basically like “I don’t have time to listen to you right now,” he dumps her. No WONDER she loses her shit and decks him. Look, Avery had been nothing but supportive of Jerry. She gave him pep talks NAKED whilst eating strawberries. She was enthusiastic in bed. (Why does he seem so unmoved by “NEVER STOP FUCKING ME”? Shouldn’t he be eating that kind of praise up? GOD.) She’s open about her kinks and willing to explore them WITH him. (Why is he turned off by the hint of bisexuality? Was this a 1996 thing?) Basically, Avery is a boss bitch alpha female and she knows it. “I’m too strong for you. Loser.” And as a woman who is often accused of being “too much,” I can’t help but cheer for that. — Kim
4) “He canNOT be alone.”
“Intimacy” is one of those words that comes up a lot in ’90s movies about bad relationships. And here it is again. Jerry’s bachelor party video is a concise indictment of all his personal foibles. (But when you’re BROS, it’s FUN to throw these flaws into each other faces over cigars, right? RIGHT?) I still cannot believe that Dorothy actually marries him after watching it, so neatly does it sum up exactly why their relationship feels incomplete. Jerry Maguire is one needy motherfucker. And it’s refreshing how naked his need for validation is. But what “good at friendship, bad at intimacy” really means is that Jerry isn’t really prepared to be in an adult relationship, because every relationship he has is first and foremost about him not being alone. And nobody dreams about being the random person chosen to stand between some in-his-feelings guy and the abyss. For most of the movie, Jerry just wants to be with SOMEONE. Dorothy – because she’s a human woman – wants him to want to be with HER.
Ray and Jerry’s relationship develops faster than Dorothy and Jerry’s does, because Ray is a kid. His needs right now are relatively easy to meet. If Jerry hugs him and feeds him ice cream and listens to him and looks at him like he’s the whole world, that’s more than enough. (He’d take him to the fuckin’ zoo, but it’s closed.) Jerry loves Ray easily, because that kid is cute af, but also because there’s nothing about that love that makes him question or change anything about himself. And he’s so god damn scared to let go. –Sage
5) “Don’t cry at the beginning of a date. Cry at the end, like I do.”
The time has come to recognize the true and unsung hero of this movie: Dorothy’s disapproving sister Laurel. Laurel has Jerry’s number FROM THE JUMP.
Look at the movie from Laurel’s perspective: her sister and her nephew are already living with her, and then her sister up and quits her job to follow a guy who was fired in disgrace. That guy then shows up at HER home drunk off his ass, looking for sympathy, leftover chicken, and maybe a bit of a feel. (I would have been pushing the sensible turtleneck option too.) Finally her sister makes a grown-up choice. But before she can leave, said guy shows up and derails her plans with a proposal of desperation. (“Get in the car, Dorothy.”) And finally, he very rudely interrupts HER support group to clean up his own mistakes.
She’s heard enough testimonials from her divorced ladies group to recognize a man in the midst of a personal breakdown. And though Jerry might emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes of his old self, good ol’ Laurel tries like hell to make her sister understand that this is NOT THE TIME for him to enter into a serious relationship. Nobody wants to be the dream-crushing friend. Nobody wants to be the one to say, “You’re special, but not to this guy.” Laurel’s job is pretty thankless, but she does it anyway. –Sage
6) Be an Ambassador of Kwan
Rod: Maybe you don’t. Because it’s not just the money I deserve. It’s not just the “coin.” It’s the… – “the kwan”.
Jerry: That’s your word?
Rod: Yeah, man, it means love, respect, community…and the dollars too. The package. The kwan.
To me, “the kwan” basically means you gotta lead with your heart. Rod leads with his heart everywhere but on the field where, as Jerry tells him, he plays with a chip on his shoulder. On the flip side, Jerry leads with his heart when it comes to his work (where else would the mission statement come from but his heart?), but he’s emotionally constipated everywhere else (which is why Rod calls him out on his shit regarding Dorothy). It’s WHY the Rod/Jerry pairing works so beautifully because in each other, they find the qualities they are lacking and they TEACH them to each other. FRIENDSHIP.
To be a true ambassador of Kwan, you have to lead with your heart in all aspects of your life. It’s WHY Rod’s jubilant celebration in the end zone is such a thing with beauty…because it has everything to do with his sheer joy in regards to playing the GAME, not earning his million dollar payday. And what happened when he expressed his joy and heart? He got the millions he had been looking for. That’s the kwan, man. — Kim
7) “Jerry, let’s not tell our sad stories.”
Do not, under any circumstances, discuss past relationships on a first date. Instant boner/lady boner killer. –Sage
8) If you can’t be yourself, be Marcee Tidwell
Regina King has gone on to have a great career post Jerry Maguire, especially in television. Her work in Southland was beloved by critics and her awards shelf is currently collapsing under the weight of all the trophies she’s picking up for American Crime. But to this day, every time I see her on screen, I shout “MARCEE!! My WIFE!” at the TV with the same level of adoration that Rod shrieks it after he gets his contract live on ESPN. THAT’S how much I love Marcee Tidwell.
How can you NOT love Marcee? She’s smart as a whip and she knows her shit. (The way she rattles off the Big Four endorsements to Jerry should strike fear in the hearts of all people who go against her). She demands respect. She’s a ferocious mama bear. She’s fully in Rod’s corner at all times but is also never afraid to speak up on her OWN behalf and be her own person. She and Rod are RELATIONSHIP GOALS. She’s as obsessed with him as he is with her, and as Sage says later, they are always on the same page. Her fire surpasses everything about the “supportive wife” trope that she easily could have been. My head canon is that Jerry takes Marcee under his wing as he launches his agency and she becomes an agent herself. How could she not? She’s someone I would want in my corner fighting for me at all times. — Kim
9) “Do not shoplift the pootie from a single mother.”
Dorothy and Jerry look at the Tidwells with palpable jealousy, because who wouldn’t want that? Rod and Marcee are and have forever been on the same page. They click because they are honest. They’re partners in every sense of the word.
So Rod can smell the discord in Jerry’s relationship. And he calls him on the fact that he is working through his shit with a woman who doesn’t deserve to be a lab rat.
Jerry: What do you know about single moms?
Rod: I was raised by one.
Jerry: Tell me. Because after this, she’ll have to take that job in San Diego.
Rod: First of all, single mothers don’t date. Watch yourself. They’ve been to the circus. You know what I mean? They’ve been to the puppet show and seen the strings. You love her?
Jerry: How do I know?
Rod: You know when you know.
Jerry: I don’t want her to go. I’ve been hanging out at her place a lot.
Rod: That right there is bullshit! You gotta be fair to her. Single mothers are a sacred thing. You gotta have the talk. She loves you. If you don’t love her, you have got to tell her.
Jerry: The kid’s amazing. He…
Rod: *laughs* I feel you. I feel you, dog. But a real man wouldn’t shoplift the pootie from a single mother.
Jerry: I didn’t shoplift the pootie…Alright, I shoplifted the pootie.
HE ABSOLUTELY SHOPLIFTED THE POOTIE. Worse, his stupid proposal comes AFTER this conversation. Never forget Rod’s face at the wedding when he realizes that they are all standing in a burning building. He tried.
Dorothy isn’t an idiot. She’s complicit in this because she’s been looking for so long for something to believe in and she thinks she’s finally found it. But when you talk about loving your guy for the person he COULD be? Girl. You’re telling yourself a big, fat lie. The moral of the story is to be prepared to give as much as you get in any relationship, and not to put all your hopes in a vision board version of a real and flawed person. –Sage
10) “Friends can tell each other anything if we have our friends hats on.”
As you may have noticed, I don’t consider Jerry and Dorothy’s to be one of the great love stories of our time. For me, the central relationship of Jerry Maguire is the friendship between Jerry and Rod. Face it, they’ve got better chemistry. And they also have the better arc.
Bear with me here, but isn’t their story akin to a Fake Relationship AU? Jerry and Rod are essentially in a marriage of convenience. Fate has conspired to make them spend a good deal of time together, even though they have no personal relationship before Jerry makes that phone call from his office. Over time, they realize they have more in common than they expected. They start to break down Rod’s bullshit and Jerry’s bullshit and get to the root of what’s holding both of them back. Jerry tells Rod to get his head out of his ass and start appreciating that he plays a game he loves for a living. Rod tells Jerry to stop feeling sorry for himself and start being the person he said he wanted to be in “The Things We Think But Do Not Say.” Dorothy and Jerry are weirdly polite with each other, even when they’re arguing. Rod and Jerry have all the passion, yelling at each other instead of treating each other like strangers. (“See, man, that’s the difference. between us. You think we’re fighting, I think we’re finally talking!”) They make each other better versions of themselves. Help me help you, indeed.
If you read this blog regularly, you may know that male friendship is my kryptonite. And while “you had me at hello” leaves me stone-faced, Rod and Jerry crying in each other’s arms after that watershed game gets me EVERY TIME. Dorothy and Jerry probably lasted a few years, but Rod and Jerry? Besties for life. –Sage
11) Somewhere between “You complete me” and “You had me at ‘Hello'” is your problem.
When the American Film Institute named their “100 Years, 100 Passions,” a little film called Jerry Maguire sat nicely at 100. “But that’s the bottom of the list!” one might say. Sure, it’s the bottom. But at the same time, out of ALL THE MOVIES EVER MADE that have romantic stories (way more than 100), Jerry made the list. And because we live in a heteronormative society, it’s because of the Jerry/Dorothy story and NOT the true love story of the movie, Jerry and Rod. And I HAVE to believe that it’s all because of the final scene and the double wallop of “You complete me.” and “You had me at Hello,” which AFI also placed at #52 in their Greatest Movie Lines of all Time list. (Side note: I miss those lists.) Listen, on a surface level, this scene is TOTALLY romantic. There’s Jerry having his big realization as he watches Rod cry on the phone with Marcee. There’s the running through the airport, which is a requirement of any Tom Cruise movie. And there’s Tom Cruise with teary and sincere eyes as he tells Dorothy that the world is cynical and he loves her and she completes him. It’s a tailor-made BIG GRAND GESTURE.
Or is it?
Look, I don’t doubt Jerry’s sincerity in that moment. I think he truly believes what he’s saying. But it goes RIGHT back to “He canNOT be alone”. Jerry’s “grand gesture” is all about asking Dorothy to take him back because of what she does for HIM. She completes HIM…but does he complete her? What is he really offering her here? Shouldn’t she be demanding more from him? But in that moment where he storms into the ladies support group, Dorothy sees the man she’s always believed Jerry could be, the man he just about is. I have no idea what the end of Jerry’s speech was because Dorothy cuts him off with “Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello”. (He was clearly going to keep going and I would LIKE to think he was going to say what he would do for her…right?) Jerry showing up was enough for her, which makes me sad.
Sage and I did a lot of back and forth about this scene and we both landed on the fact that Dorothy was just that damaged. One of my FAVORITE moments in the movie is when Dorothy is dumping him and Jerry asks if she wants his soul. Her response? “Why not? I deserve that.” It’s a lovely moment of pure backbone because YES. Yes you DO deserve his soul. So “You had me at Hello” erases all of that. He’s not offering her his soul here. In reality, he’s asking for hers. And that’s why, underneath all that cinematic mumbo jumbo, the movie fails on a romantic level. Ladies, demand more than “Hello” please. — Kim
12) “SHOW ME THE MONEY.”
Be Rod Tidwell. Know what you are worth and don’t be afraid to ask for it. — Kim
What are your favorite life lessons or moments from Jerry Maguire? Let us know in the comments.