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'Jerry Maguire' 25th Anniversary Of Tom Cruise And Cuba Gooding Jr. Repeatedly Yelling 'Show Me The Money'

By Brian Richards | Film | December 20, 2021 |

By Brian Richards | Film | December 20, 2021 |


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As far back as most of us can remember, most of the movies and television shows that we’ve watched and read about have centered around a limited number of occupations: cops, lawyers, doctors, firefighters, assassins, government agents, private eyes (*claps* They’re watching you *clap-clap*), and even accountants. And those movies and television shows have provided and still provide hundreds of hours of entertainment. (Even though many movies and television shows center around cops have been accused of being nothing more than ‘copaganda,’ which is something that talk-show host Amber Ruffin recently discussed in great detail). But there’s one occupation that has received little to no attention from Hollywood:

Sports agents.

Most people had no reason to know or care about what a sports agent does, or how they do it, other than reading about the usual negotiations that occur in many a conference room somewhere. According to the fine people at Wikipedia:

A sports agent is a legal representative (hence agent) for professional sports figures such as athletes and coaches. They procure and negotiate employment and endorsement contracts for the athlete or coach whom they represent. Because of the unique characteristics of the sports industry, sports agents are responsible for communications with team owners, managers, and other individuals. Also, they are responsible for making recommendations. In addition to finding income sources, agents often handle public relations matters for their clients. In some large sports agencies, such as IMG, Creative Artists Agency, Roc Nation Sports, and Octagon, agents deal with all aspects of a client’s finances, from investment to filing taxes.

Sports agents may be relied upon by their clients for guidance in all business aspects, and sometimes even more broadly…Due to the length and complexity of contracts, many sports agents are lawyers or have a background in contract law. Agents are expected to be knowledgeable about finance, business management, and financial and risk analysis, as well as sports…Other skills an agent must possess are excellent communication and negotiation skills. Agents must be highly motivated, willing to work long hours, and capable of multitasking. It is very common for agents to be in negotiations on behalf of several clients at one time.

Considering the hundreds of athletes who rely on sports agents to help further their careers, and the millions of dollars at stake when it comes to how much an athlete can gain or lose depending on the skill of their agents, many stories can be told about this particular industry. (Some of those stories were even told on the HBO series Arliss, which focused on a sports agent played by Robert Wuhl) And one of the first movies to tell such a story was Jerry Maguire, which opened in theaters on December 13, 1996.

With over seventy clients that require and demand his assistance and guidance, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is one of the best and most successful sports agents currently working at Sports Management International (S.M.I.). When one of those clients is hospitalized after being seriously injured during a hockey game, that player’s son makes it very clear that he’s not impressed with Jerry’s willingness to overlook his father’s health and well-being for his benefit. Which then results in Jerry suffering a crisis of conscience, and deciding to pour his heart out on paper by writing a memo mission statement for what he believes should be the future of his company: fewer clients and less money, but with more honesty and a focus on developing greater relationships with those clients. This then results in S.M.I. choosing to fire Jerry, and leaving him with only one other employee who has his back: agency assistant Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), and with two clients remaining out of the seventy-two: quarterback Frank “Cush” Cushman (Jerry O’Connell), who expects to be the number one pick at the NFL Draft, and Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a wide receiver with the Arizona Cardinals who is not happy with his present contract and wants Jerry to get him a better one as his football career begins to wind down. As he works to establish his own sports agency, Jerry grows closer to Dorothy, her son, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), and Rod, who all teach him that he has so much more to learn about being a better sports agent and more importantly, about being a better man.

From the opening scene, Jerry Maguire immerses the audience in the fast-paced, high-pressure world of sports agents, and shows how exciting and cutthroat it can be as Jerry and his colleagues put in work to negotiate for deals that help athletes stay in the spotlight while also staying very rich. And the world of sports agents and pro athletes appears to be no different than that of talent agents and actors/writers/directors/musicians in Hollywood, in terms of glad-handing, smooth-talking, and making sure to be in the right room with the right people so that everyone gets what they want, whether it’s a new and improved contract, a multimillion-dollar sneaker deal with Reebok, or just making sure that your client sees the light of day after being arrested for having little to no common sense.

During one crucial moment when Rod finally gets an offer from the Cardinals for his next contract, only for that offer to be an insult and a disappointment in terms of how much he is offered to stay playing for his team, Rod is understandably upset and confused as to what his next move should be, and Jerry lets him know that this is just the start of negotiations and that he can get him a better offer. But Marcee (Regina King), Rod’s wife, doesn’t believe him and doesn’t believe that Jerry is working hard enough to help her husband, enough that she’s willing to pick up the phone and call S.M.I. and get another agent. “What do you stand for, Jerry?,” Marcee says to him. “What do you stand for?!” And it’s a question that we see Jerry being forced to answer by everyone in his life. A little boy calls him out for being willing to put his father’s health at risk for money, and it results in a mission statement that gets Jerry sent to the unemployment line. His business relationship with Cush ends because his father, Matt (Beau Bridges), doesn’t like that Jerry is supporting and paying attention to Rod (or as Matt pointedly calls him, “the Black fella”) instead of making Cush his point of focus, and breaks his supposedly stronger-than-oak word by signing with Jerry’s protégé-turned-rival, Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr). His fiancée, Avery (the late, great Kelly Preston), makes Jerry realize that he doesn’t want to spend his life with someone who wears her lack of empathy as a badge of pride and ends their engagement. (Some say that Avery has a lack of empathy, others say that Avery knew her worth and refused to support her unemployed fiancé who couldn’t seal the deal and do his job) And as he grows closer to both Rod and Dorothy, they both force him to realize that his usual approach to getting things done no longer works. His “What can I do for you?” approach combined with his mega-watt smile that now exudes quiet desperation instead of confidence isn’t enough to keep him afloat as a sports agent (hence why Rod laughs in Jerry’s face during his “Help me help you” speech and calls him out on it), and it certainly won’t work as a friend to Rod or as a husband to Dorothy. Instead, he has to follow the advice that he gives to Rod when it comes to wanting to achieve everything that he desires: play with his heart, and open his heart to show how much they both matter to him, and to actually have the Kwan.

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Even though Jerry Maguire opened with surprisingly little buzz, as most of the attention was being paid to Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise’s other film which was released earlier that same year, it wasn’t difficult for the film to win over both critics and audiences, and go on to become a box-office hit. It was beautifully written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who also wrote and directed Say Anything… and Singles. It had legendary cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who blessed nearly every shot with so much warmth that it was impossible to not be absorbed in whatever was happening onscreen. And it was brought to life by an exceptional cast, including Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Rod Tidwell, whose talent and swagger and braggodoccio don’t change his knowledge of the fact that he has a limited shelf life as a football player, and is why he wants nothing more than to make sure that he and his family can live happily and comfortably for the rest of their days; Renée Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd (or as she calls herself, “the oldest 26-year-old in the world”), widowed single mother, former agency assistant who walks away from her job and becomes Jerry’s ride-or-die after reading his mission statement, only to ignore every red flag that he’s waving in her face, and fool herself into thinking that potential is a good enough reason to stay with him and to accept his marriage proposal; Bonnie Hunt as Laurel, Dorothy’s cynical and protective sister who offers advice to Dorothy on how to handle being around Jerry, while also making it very clear that she doesn’t approve of him and will f-ck him up if he breaks her heart; Regina King as Marcee, Rod’s wife who takes no bullsh-t from Jerry or from anyone else when it comes to her family; Jay Mohr as Bob Sugar, who fires Jerry and then ruthlessly takes almost all of his clients because as he puts it, it’s not show friends, it’s show business; Kelly Preston as Avery, who goes from being willing to have a threesome if it would make Jerry happy, to kicking the absolute sh-t out of him right after he breaks up with her; Jonathan Lipnicki as Ray, Dorothy’s adorable and precocious son who immediately bonds with Jerry and who makes him smile with nearly every word that comes out of his mouth. (“Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?”) Along with a supporting cast that included Donal Logue, Reagan Gomez, Aries Spears, Eric Stoltz (reprising his role as Vahlere from Say Anything…, only now he’s moved up in the world since he was last seen throwing graduation parties for high-schoolers), the late, great Glenn Frey (yes, that Glenn Frey), and because it was centered around sports, there were plenty of cameos from both athletes and broadcasters, including Troy Aikman, Katarina Witt, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, Drew Bledsoe, and many others.

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There are a few other reasons as to why Jerry Maguire became a rom-com classic and a phenomenon that people couldn’t stop talking about, and that was the three most memorable quotes in the film: the first being “Show me the money.” This is Rod’s philosophy, and is also what Rod forces Jerry to say repeatedly, loudly, and passionately, for him to stay on as his client.

The other two reasons are “You complete me,” which is said by Jerry when he goes back home and gives an emotional speech in which he makes it crystal-clear to Dorothy how much he loves and misses her, and how he refuses to walk away from their marriage without a fight, and Dorothy’s response to everything that Jerry says to her in that speech: “You had me at hello.”

Dorothy’s line was so memorable that even The Joker couldn’t help but repeat it to Batman in The Dark Knight during their interrogation scene.

The film also went on to be nominated for three Golden Globes, with Cruise winning for Best Actor, and five Academy Awards, with Gooding Jr. winning for Best Supporting Actor, and giving a very memorable acceptance speech when he was on stage.

After the success of Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe went on to write and direct such films as Almost Famous (which won him a Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay and a Best Supporting Actress win for Kate Hudson), Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown, We Bought A Zoo, and Aloha (which resulted in Emma Stone apologizing to Sandra Oh at the 2019 Golden Globes for her involvement with the film), as well as creating the short-lived Showtime series Roadies, and helming such documentaries as Pearl Jam Twenty, The Union, and David Crosby: Remember My Name.

In January of 2010, shortly after Conan O’Brien realized that his dream of hosting The Tonight Show was going to become a nightmare, and that continuing to host the show was no longer an option for him, he gave a farewell speech on his final episode that ended with these words: “…All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality, it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, it’s just true!”

It may be easy to mock and to scoff at Jerry Maguire in the years since its release and accuse it of being too cheesy, or worse, being a story that simply encourages codependency. But the film, much like its lead characters and also like Conan O’Brien, considers optimism to be a revolutionary act, enough to wear its heart on its sleeve, to not apologize for doing so, and to believe that amazing things sometimes can happen as a result of kindness and hard work. (And Crowe is also a fan of legendary director Billy Wilder, so it also has enough bite to show that there is some truth in always staying gracious, because the best revenge is your paper)

Even as a cynic myself, I can recognize how optimism can be revolutionary at times when it’s needed most. And Jerry Maguire is a film that recognizes that, too.

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Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.



Header Image Source: Tri-Star Pictures