And, in so doing, finally put my finger on what I hate about Elizabethtown.
According to Wikipedia:
Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a stock character in films.
Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005), describes the MPDG as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”
MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up, thus their men never grow up.
MPDGs are usually static characters who have eccentric personality quirks and are unabashedly girlish. They invariably serve as the romantic interest for a (often brooding or depressed) leading male protagonist.
A prime example is Natalie Portman’s character in the movie Garden State, written and directed by Zach Braff. Kate Hudson’s character, Penny Lane, in Almost Famous has been called a MPDG.
Kate Winslet’s character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is notable for acknowledging and rejecting this label, in a remark to Jim Carrey’s Joel character: “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”