Dorothy: Shut up. Just... shut up. You had me at "hello."
So there's this sports agent, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), and he's got a pretty sweet deal going on. He's great at his job and it earns him a lot of money and respect, he's got a hot redheaded fiancee who's ready for a threesome and an admiring protege. Then the son of a client with a concussion tells him off. This leads to a nervous breakdown which turns to an epiphany where he realizes how disingenuous and corrupt the sports agent business is. He tries to be friends with everyone, only to see he was helping a lot of self-centered Jerkasses get away with illegal and immoral acts while making millions of dollars.
He writes a manifesto on what we think but don't say, which he passes out to his entire firm. But there is a reason we don't say those things, and he is fired in short order. Losing his clients, future clients and his fiancee, his only solace is retaining a single athlete, football player Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr..), and inspiring a secretary at the firm, Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger), to join with him. Tidwell is a talented athlete but has a far greater ego, making his upcoming contract re-negotiation a nail biter. Jerry and Dorothy soon fall for each other, but they wonder if it's true love or one of convenience and consideration of her young son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki).
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, this 1996 film is noted for its feel-good factor, placement way up on the idealistic end on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and use of many memorable quotes like Tidwell's repeated use of "SHOW ME THE MONEY!".
Show Me The Tropes!!:
- Angry Black Man: Rod Tidwell.
- Being Good Sucks: Jerry pays the price for sticking to his beliefs, but he soon realizes Good Feels Good.
- Beta Couple: Rod and Marcee.
- Betty and Veronica: Played with in that the two don't compete directly for Jerry's affections, but Dorothy (Betty) and Avery (Veronica) fit the character types.
- Big Game: Downplayed. At the end of the season the Cardinals play the Cowboys in a Big Game on Monday Night Football; however, it's NOT the Super Bowl or even a playoff game, just a regular season game that, should the Cardinals win it, will qualify them for the playoffs.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jerry and Dorothy's ex co-workers praised Jerry to his face but were probably plotting behind his back.
- Broken Ace: Jerry, at first.
- Calling Your Orgasms: Avery (played by Kelly Preston), in one scene.
- The Cameo: Loads and loads of them, mostly by famous athletes, coaches, broadcasters, and other sports figures. Leigh Steinberg, the Real Life agent who loosely inspired the character of Jerry Maguire, appears near the end as Troy Aikman's agent.
- For non-sports figures, Jann Wenner plays Jerry's boss at SMI, writer Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life) is one of the women in Laurel's divorced women's group, director Mark Pellington plays the director of Jerry's bachelor party video, Jerry Cantrell plays the clerk working at Kinko's who copies Jerry's mission statement, and Eric Stoltz plays Ethan Vahlere (the same character he played in Say Anything...), the host of Jerry's bachelor party.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Jerry, who's "great at friendship, bad at intimacy". As one of his former girlfriends says:"He CAN'T say 'I love you'."
- Catchphrase: "Show me the money!"
- Cheerful Child: Ray always manages to make Jerry and/or Dorothy smile.
- David Versus Goliath: The Cardinals are a perennial loser; the Big Game at the climax of the film is against the Dallas Cowboys, at the time the movie was made a powerhouse coming off of winning three Super Bowl championships in four years.note
- Deadpan Snarker: Dorothy's sister Laurel.
- Description Cut: After a brief encounter with Jerry in the airport, Dorothy says to Ray "whoever snagged him must be one classy babe." Cut to Jerry and Avery having wild sex, with the latter very loudly talking dirty.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: When Jerry breaks up with Avery, she responds by punching him twice in the face. While not exactly Played for Laughs, the abuse is trivialised and this trope is presumably the reason Jerry does not slap her with assault charges. She becomes a Karma Houdini for the stunt too. To a lesser extent, Marcee assaults Rod's brother when she gets annoyed at his nasty attitude during the final game.
- Dreadful Musician:
- Turns out Rod is a better football player than he is a singer.
- Also, Frank Cushman is shown playing Nirvana's "Something in the Way" extremely poorly in one scene.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Jerry, after he's fired by Bob Sugar.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Jerry and Dorothy both go through such hardships that, when they finally have the happy ending, it's impossible not to come out with a grin the size of Texas on your face.
- "Eureka!" Moment: Dorothy realizes Jerry married her for the wrong reason when during an attempt at a serious talk about their marriage, he lets Ray interrupt by joining them in bed. As she puts it, Jerry "really loves my son...and he really likes me."
- Everything Is Big in Texas: The Cushmans, a stereotypical Texas family if ever there was one.
- Evil Counterpart: Bob Sugar, to Jerry.
- Experimented in College: Avery says if Jerry wanted her to she would 'totally' do the two girl thing for him, like she did in college.
- Fanservice: For both genders - Tom Cruise, Kelly Preston, and Cuba Gooding Jr. all get naked at one point or another.
- Fiery Redhead: Avery Bishop.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Seemingly deconstructed at first - Jerry and Dorothy do seem to fall in love and marry awfully quickly, but it proves to be the bad idea that it is Real Life when their relationship falls apart after they've tied the knot. Eventually reconstructed when they reconcile after Jerry's big "you complete me" speech at the end of the movie.
- From the Mouths of Babes: After a drunken Jerry blurts out the f-word in front of RayRay: You said 'fuck'.Jerry: I know, I'm—Ray: I won't tell.
Marcee: Why don't you be the first man in your family not to use that word, and then we'll let you live.
- Tyson, after Rod makes a big play, yells out, "That's my mo-fo!"
- Gilligan Cut: When Dorothy first meets Jerry, she says that the woman who is with him must be "a classy broad". Cut to Jerry and Avery having very non classy sex up against the wall.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Jerry's sex with Avery is seen as being exhausted and unfulfilling, whereas he and Dorothy enjoy themselves.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Jerry and Rod's usual interactions involve them losing their shit at each other. One of the best examples is their, "Help me, help you" conversation.
- Happily Married: Rod and Marcee, and later, Jerry and Dorothy.
- Heel Realization: Jerry has one after Jesse, the son of one of his clients (a hockey player with a concussion) tells him off.Jesse: Fuck you!
- Jesse also ends up Flipping the Bird at Jerry.
- Homage: According to Word of God, the scene of Jerry and Dorothy looking at each other from across the street right before they go out to dinner is an homage to the pilot of My So-Called Life when Angela and Brian are looking across the street from one another.
- Honest Corporate Executive: Jerry. He has an epiphany about how immoral and corrupt his industry can be, and writes a manifesto that he hopes will spark real change. He is fired for his trouble.
- Hot And Cold: Marcee.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Dorothy's sister gives Jerry a warning of this sort.Laurel: You fuck this up, I'll kill you.Jerry: I'm glad we had this talk.
- I Gave My Word: Cushman's father; unfortunately he doesn't mean it.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Avery again.
- Insistent Terminology:
- Call Chad an au pair or a child care technician if you like, but don't call him a nanny.
- And it's not a memo. It's a mission statement.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rod comes off as a stereotypical spoiled, self-centered, and greedy Jerk Jock at first, but he's actually fiercely loyal, upstanding, honest, and deeply devoted to his family.
- Just Plane Wrong: The next time you're flying coach like Dorothy is, see if you can hear anyone talking in first class like Dorothy does.
- Kitschy Local Commercial: At one point Rod walks off the set of an ad he's shooting for a local car dealership (Kammel's Chevrolet) because the owner wants him to ride a camel in addition to wearing a turban.
- Large Ham: An Oscar winning piece served up by Cuba Gooding Jr., with Tom Cruise providing a second helping as the title character.
- Little Black Dress: Dorothy decides to wear one on her first date with Jerry.Jerry: That's not a dress, that's an Audrey Hepburn movie.
- Meaningful Echo: "You complete me."
- Morality Pet: Ray acts as one towards Jerry at times.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Jerry has one of these moments after sending out his mission statement. It's punctuated by a bomb going off in the episode of Hawaii Five-O he's watching with a well-timed "boom."
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jerry was based on real-life sports superagent Leigh Steinberg (who appears near the end of the film As Himself).
- Noodle Incident: "... your brother loses his leg in a tragic bass fishing accident ..."
- Oh, Crap!: Dorothy when she realizes Jerry was in the hallway as she was telling Laurel she loved him.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Rod and Marcee are being Sickeningly Sweethearts while at lunch with Jerry and Dorothy. Then the heavily pregnant Marcee starts to notice something:Marcee: Oh, baby.
Rod: Oh! Baby!
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Everyone calls star quarterback Frank Cushman "Cush", and he even calls himself this, answering the phone with, "This is Cush."
- Panicky Expectant Father: Rod, at one point.
- Parental Substitute: Lampshaded by Dorothy.
- Pop-Star Composer: Cameron Crowe's then-wife Nancy Wilson did the score and added an original piece to the soundtrack.
- Posthumous Character: Jerry's mentor, the late, great Dicky Fox.
- Precision F-Strike: As noted above, Laurel while giving her If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her... speech.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Avery when having sex with Jerry in her first scene.DON'T! EVER! STOP! FUCKING ME!
- Race for Your Love: Jerry runs through a (curiously empty) airport to catch a plane so he can try to win Dorothy back at the end of the movie.
- Rousing Speech: A few of them, though mostly played for laughs.
- Sassy Black Woman: Marcee is a mild example. Her sass manifests as extreme loyalty to her husband, but she's easily the more level-headed of the two.
- Shaking Her Hair Loose: Dorothy wears her hair up for the dinner date with Jerry, and shakes it free just before they have sex.
- Shirtless Scene: Cuba Gooding Jr., who got into extremely good shape for his role, has a few.
- Shown Their Work: According to this article here about the jazz that plays when Jerry and Dorothy have sex. Almost seems like Cameron knew what he was doing when writing that scene.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Rod and Marcee, which makes Jerry and Dorothy uncomfortable at times since their marriage lacks that kind of closeness.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Dorothy, who identifies herself as such a few times.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Noted for being very idealistic despite portraying professional sports as a rather sleazy business.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Rod, at first - as the movie goes on however he begins to play up to his opinion of himself.
- Smug Snake: Bob Sugar, Jerry's former protege.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Jerry has some trouble finding a song to sing along to on the radio.
- Stepford Smiler: Jerry while watching Avery's film at his bachelor party. Also, when, while pretending to be Cush on the phone, he finds out Bob Sugar has signed with Cush (through Matt) behind his back.
- The Stoner: Oddly enough, uptight Laurel, shown toking up in her kitchen.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: While riding the elevator together, Jerry and Dorothy observe a deaf couple signing to each other. When Jerry wonders what they were saying, Dorothy, who knows sign language because her aunt was hearing impaired, tells him that the guy told his girlfriend "you complete me". As there is already a bit of Unresolved Sexual Tension between the two of them, much awkwardness ensues.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Shoplifting the pooty."Jerry: I didn't shoplift the pooty! (Rod just looks at him) All right! I shoplifted the pooty!
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Rod and Jerry.
- What Have I Become?: Almost word for word:Jerry: "What had I become - just another shark in a suit?"
- Winning Over the Kids: Jerry actually does this too well; when their marriage is falling apart, Dorothy says that she can't stay with a guy "who loves my son....and he really likes me."
- With Due Respect: After Rod claims he's better than NFL superstar wide receivers like Jerry Rice, Andre Reed and Cris Carter:Jerry: Uh, listen, Rod, I-I say this with great respect for you. But those players you mentioned, Rod, they're marquee players (Rod turns around and gives Jerry a Death Glare), and this deal...we're, you know, we-