The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.
Words: Brody Rossiter
Now far be it from me to argue and cast aspersions upon the merits of your personal high school experience, but it is safe to assume that most (sane) individuals would be far from enthused about the idea of returning to those hallowed halls of education and awkward social awakenings for a class reunion a decade after you finally escaped them.
1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank depicts the aforementioned scenario through the eyes of Martin Blank (John Cusack), a native of the titular town of Grosse Pointe, who upon graduating decided to climb a somewhat unusual career ladder – namely that of a professional and highly capable hitman. Unsurprisingly, Martin’s lifestyle choices leave little room for sentiment and close personal relationships, and following his departure from the picturesque small town, his people skills have taken a turn, or rather, nosedive for the worse – whilst his social life can only be described as enigmatic. Though when the opportunity arises to visit the Detroit suburb of his childhood and reunite with estranged family and friends whilst on a mission, Martin reluctantly decides it’s time to tie up some loose ends as well as victims.
Beyond Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, the late 90’s to early 2000’s were undoubtedly the most fruitful years of Cusack’s career, beginning with Grosse Pointe Blank and ending with High Fidelity. High spots and strong performances have undoubtedly followed, but nothing brings back late twentieth-century nostalgia like a quintessential Cusack performance. His ability to match tenderness and deep romanticism with his trademark pedantic everyman quality, whilst still remaining the coolest guy in the room, works perfectly within the context the murderous high school reunion. From the ‘douchebag’ jocks to timelessly beautiful sweethearts, Cusack’s journey through the history books still feels vibrant and genuinely funny over fifteen years later. Even Minnie Driver provides the perfect object of desire for Martin Blank to recapture the fondest memories of his youth, whilst rival assassin Dan Aykroyd supplies a equally charming and sinister foil to set both an action-packed and comedic tone.
Some of us get better and bolder with age, some of us decline and retreat into old habits and former glories. We cherish memories and carry the burdens of past disappointments but ultimately we all have these things in common, whoever we are and whatever we become. Grosse Pointe Blank plays upon all these emotions, and that combined with a superb cast and electric script ensures Martin Blank’s return home scores a cinematic touchdown that would win the heart of any head cheerleader.