Today, we look at how well-constructed the “You had me at hello” line was in Jerry Maguire.
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I’m truly not here to stump for Jerry Maguire. I think it’s a good movie overall, but not a great one. However, I will stump for just how well writer/director Cameron Crowe set up the now-famous “You had me at hello” line in the film.
To set the scene, Jerry Maguire’s only client, Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr., who won an Oscar for the role), just had a huge game on Monday Night Football, thus pretty much assuring that he will receive a major free agent contract to remain a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Also, the success Tidwell has with Maguire as his agent will almost assuredly lead to Maguire getting more clients. Through an admittedly nonsensical flight back to San Diego from Arizona, Jerry is able to get back to his home where his sister-in-law is hosting one of her singles support groups.
So, to make it clear the status of the relationship between Jerry Maguire and his wife at that point in time, Maguire was previously the top sports agent in the industry, but he had a crisis of conscience, and wrote a manifesto about how sports agents should be more about personal relationships than about making money. He lost his job, and almost all of his clients. He tried to get people at his firm to come with him, and shockingly, a low-level employee, Dorothy, is the only one to agree to come with him. They start their solo firm, with Dorothy as his assistant. Jerry quickly falls into a father role with Dorothy’s adorable young son, Ray (Jerry and Dorothy’s first scene together in the movie is Jerry being very kind to Dorothy and Ray when they are both flying back from a conference, thus furthering a crush Dorothy had on Jerry), and begins to date Dorothy after his fiancée leaves him due to his fall from grace. When money woes force Dorothy to leave town for a better job, Jerry stops her by proposing to her. Clearly, he is only marrying her because he loves being a dad to her kid and because he appreciates her loyalty, but she just as obviously hopes that he will grow to love her.
After a while, though, it is clear that he doesn’t. Sure, he LIKES her well enough, but he doesn’t love her. He just doesn’t want to lose her and her son from his life (in part because he is not someone who can truly be alone), but he doesn’t seem to love her. So when he goes on a trip traveling with Rod, they clearly are done as a couple (even if they don’t explicitly say that). Early in the film, Jerry and Dorothy observe a couple making out, and the guy tells the girl that she “completes him.” Jerry is clearly put off by that over-the-top sentiment.
So okay, Rod has his great game (along with a scary moment where it appears as though he was injured on the game-winning touchdown, but it was a false alarm), and after the game, Jerry’s cell phone rings, and he answers it, thinking it is Dorothy. It is not, it is Rod’s wife, Marcie (Regina King). She wants to talk to Rod, and Jerry hands the phone to Rod, and you can see on his face that he realizes he really DOES love Dorothy, and he was hoping she was calling him. He has always been mystified by Rod and Marcie’s relationship throughout the movie, as they just seemed to love each other in a way Jerry can’t comprehend. In that moment, though, he realized he DID love Dorothy that way, so he wanted to go see her.
VERY early in the film, we establish that Jerry Maguire is the “king of the living room,” he can woo clients and their families easily as soon as he comes to their homes to try to sign them. Crowe gets some demerits for Jerry actively noting that part of his reputation when he arrives at the home, but he then goes on his speech about basically how he DOES love Dorothy, and that she completes him (Jerry willing to use such schmaltzy sentiment is a big breakthrough for him).
Dorothy, though, knows Jerry well enough by this point that she knows that just him leaving the game and flying home to see her was proof that he really DID love her, so after his big ol’ speech, she tells him to shut up, and that “You had me at ‘Hello’.”
Of course, this clip bizarrely doesn’t contain Jerry saying “Hello,” which is weird…
Still, great moment, and so well-constructed by Crowe, set up by so many little moments before it to really sell the speech.
Okay, folks, if you have suggestions for cool pop culture quotes, drop me a line at email@example.com!