It’s a rarity that a romantic comedy ever goes in to my list of all-time favorites, but I’m willing to make exceptions. See, the problem with most romantic comedies is that they’re too shallow. Everything’s about surface level attraction and if it isn’t, most movies try to over-compensate by throwing in an unwelcome stalker element. Can’t Hardly Wait anyone? Still, now and again, I’m reminded that it’s possible to find a movie about the guy getting the girl that can actually warm the heart. And if there are a couple of headshots along the way… well, so be it. I’m talking about, of course, Grosse Pointe Blank. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, it follows Martin Q. Blank, a hit man who’s having a bit of a mid-life crisis. At his therapist’s insistence (and on a job) he returns home to Michigan for his high school reunion. While there, his feelings for an old flame, Debi, are rekindled, but can he keep the girl and keep them both alive long enough to enjoy it?
One of the things that’s so compelling about Grosse Pointe Blank is its incredible sense of self. John Cusack brings a Woody Allen-type neurosis to the character without going completely over-the-top. Instead, Cusack mellows as a man who’s unsure of what he’s done with his life and where it will take him. Sure, there are the token Cusack fits (seriously, it’s kinda hard to think of a movie he’s not yelling in…) but given the character, they’re put to good use. But to be fair, Cusack doesn’t carry the movie alone. Minnie Driver as Debi is charming and down-to-earth. It becomes quite clear (especially as she plays The Clash’s Rudie Can’t Fail) what would attract a guy to a girl like Debi. The weaker moments of the performance are Debi’s “Grr, I’m mad at you” moments when you just know that she’s gonna give Martin another shot, even if he doesn’t deserve it. It’s like romantic comedy rules that the girl puts up a fight before falling for his charms, so yeah, of course it’s gonna be in there. Still, Driver brings charm even to these scenes.
The rest of the cast deserves their fair share of credit too though. My personal favorite character was Alan Arkin’s two-scene turn as Martin’s therapist. Okay, maybe it was more like three, but the point is, Arkin packs quite a punch with limited screen time. The other honorable mention would have to be Dan Akroyd as Grocer. Grosse Pointe Blank may not suit everyone because there are definitely times where it’s aimless, but if this movie was sticking to regular movie conventions, Grocer is the film’s villain. But I hesitate to use a term like that, considering how damn endearing Akroyd is, even as he tries to gun someone down. What’s most impressive is that the supporting cast (even Joan Cusack’s obligatory five minute role) is surprisingly even. In most cases, it’s even on par with the leads who are given a lot more time to accomplish the same things. It’s difficult to say whether it’s the material or the delivery and sense of timing, but something about Grosse Pointe Blank just works for me.
Grosse Pointe Blank manages to do something impressive in its 107 minute runtime. It manages to introduce characters that actually make me laugh. Furthermore, it introduces morally reprehensible characters and still manages to find a way to make me invest in them. But what’s perhaps most impressive is its material. Guy tries to get the girl he spurned years ago is nothing new, but somehow there is new life in this movie. Maybe it’s the hitman angle or maybe it’s the performances? Who knows or even cares really? The point is, Grosse Points Blank hits the mark when it comes to the conventions of romantic comedy combined with the best of what dark humor has to offer.