ELIZABETHTOWN, KY. — To learn how heartlanders view how Hollywood depicts them, you need to step through the looking glass. Last weekend that meant heading to Elizabethtown, Ky., the spiritual core of local boy Cameron Crowe's eponymous movie.
Opening weekend had the town abuzz - sort of. Screenings here this summer, attended by Mr. Crowe, took the edge off the excitement. Talks with residents revealed a blend of ambivalence, mild pride, and widespread relief that they hadn't been rendered as backwoods stereotypes.
"We were scared to death about that," said Andrea Wyatt, sitting on a lawn chair as a block party kicked off Saturday in the late-day light, a band playing country, gospel, and Elvis. It's not that Crowe was suspect; it was more the industry behind him. "In the end," said Ms. Wyatt, "we were very pleased."
"It gives the essence of Kentucky," added Marlene Hall.
Teenagers Heather Elmore and Jennifer Wu had yet to see the film. They laughed when asked how many local boys look like star Orlando Bloom.
At the 9 p.m. showing at the Movie Palace on Woodland Drive, cheers went up for local icons - a sign for the Quicksie 98.3 radio station, for example. An exchange about the proper pronunciation of Louisville (LOO-a-vull, please) drew laughs.
If the script made any generalizations, they had to do with locals' propensity for holding long grudges and, interestingly, for their lumping together of coastal folks. (In a running joke, characters keep referring to the "California" side of the family that Bloom represents, though his character hails from Oregon.)
At the cinema, Michelle Eckart felt that the importance of family shined through. Tom Jurcak, who saw the movie with his girlfriend, laughed about the grudge-holding. "Oh yeah," he said. "That's small towns."
At the block party, his cap brim pulled low, Phil Atherton said his reason for coming out had nothing to do with "Elizabethtown." Kentucky guitar-picker Pat Kirtley, national champion in 1995, was due on stage. "That's what I came to see," said Mr. Atherton. And the movie? "I'll probably wait until it comes on the TV."