A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 112 – Grosse Pointe Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank – June 20th, 2010

Our second movie for reunion weekend is unarguably one of our very favorites of our whole collection. Or well, it’s one of my favorites. I’m not sure when I first saw this. It came out just about when I graduated from high school, but I’m pretty sure I was at least a semester into college before I got around to seeing it. No matter, though, since I loved it immediately and have seen it I can’t count how many times since. I can quote large swaths of its clever and bizarre lines, which end up being less clever and more bizarre out of context, but who cares, right? It’s a great movie. Today we watched it with a high school friend of Andy’s (in town for the reunion) and his friend’s parents.

The whole conceit of the movie is in the juxtaposition of John Cusak’s character, Martin, and what he does (professional killer) with where he goes (his high school reunion). It’s such a mundane thing that so many people can identify with. High school reunion invitation shows up, you start thinking about how much time has gone by and you look at your life and all. And for most people it’s like last night’s movie, where Romy and Michele have regular lives and want regular-but-impressive lives. Martin Blank has an impressive life and all, but it’s nowhere near normal. The opening scene sets it all up so very eloquently, with Martin doing a job, taking out another assassin from a hotel room while over his headset his secretary Marcella (played amazingly by Joan Cusak) reads him the invitation to the reunion. She perkily shares with him his classmates’ various achievements, like Outward Bound trips and cheese shops while he takes aim and fires. And right there you know the direction this movie is moving in. Hit man goes home. And you know how yesterday I talked about the baggage high school leaves with people? Yeah, Martin’s got more than most.

Or maybe it’s the “angst over killing a lot of people” as his therapist, Oatman (played by Alan Arkin) suggests. But that can’t be all of it. He’s also got an obsession with the girl he left behind. On prom night he left her waiting for him and disappeared, taking off and, as we learn later, joining the army and eventually becoming a freelance professional killer. She’s understandably upset over this and has been for the past ten years. And here comes Martin, back to their reunion, looking to somehow fix things, but he has absolutely no idea how to do that. Oh yeah, and then there’s physical baggage in the form of a rival hit man, Grocer (played by Dan Ackroyd) and the government spooks he’s called in to take out Martin. Oh, and another hit man who’s in town to take him out because he accidentally killed a millionaire’s dog on a job. So there’s the juxtaposition again. Martin’s got all these professional badasses with lots of guns coming after him, but he’s dealing with them, and a job that’s intertwined with the reunion, while trying to win Debi back and revisit his youth and figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Providing he lives through the reunion.

As Grocer tells him at their first meeting in the movie, “life’s full of second chances.” Which seems to be at the heart of the movie. It’s all so exaggerated. I mean, most of us aren’t going to be dealing with quite the same level of life-threatening risk when we go back to see our old schools and classmates. We’re not so removed from the day-to-day society most people live in. We’re not assassins. But when Martin muses about how he doesn’t even know what he has in common with the people back in his home town anymore, when he practices small talk before the reunion (aside from the bit about killing the president of Paraguay with a fork) it all feels so very much like what many non-assassin people go through when faced with this sort of situation. He’s the ultimate outsider. Take anyone who felt like they didn’t belong and multiply it by a billion. He professes to his therapist that he doesn’t care about morality but obviously he cares about something or why go back?

He goes back for Debi. Obviously. And Debi, who is played with a mix of quirky vindictiveness and hopeful caution by Minnie Driver, seems to warm up to him, until of course it all comes crashing down and Martin’s professional life intrudes upon his reunion and he finds himself having to defend himself to her. And desperately trying to explain how he can do what he does and still be a guy worth her attention and love, you can see it in his face when he knows he’s failed to convince her. He’s failed to convince himself. But of course he does have a useful skill set when the guns get pulled out and people start shooting.

It’s a great movie with some surprising depth to it in addition to the great quips and stellar performances. I honestly don’t think anyone gives a bad performance in this and everyone gets some fun moments. The two hit men, Grocer, Debi, her father, Martin’s old friend Paul, everyone at the reunion. I know I’ve made it out to be all serious, and it has serious bits to it where Martin really does have to consider his life and choices, and there are lines about all that, sure. But they’re often spoken by unlikely people, like Grocer giving the second chances line, or Paul at the reunion, talking about how the reunion organizers think people can’t evolve from who they used to be. So they’re funny too. For every serious moment, or attempt to be serious, there’s a humorous line or delivery or something going on in the background that makes you laugh. Martin tells Debi, Paul and Debi’s father that he’s a professional killer. Flat out. Debi asks if he gets dental, Paul wants to know if you have to do post-grad work and Debi’s father tells him it’s a growth industry. He’s a serious guy (though given how we meet him and all, he’s had a lot of rotten luck lately) but when faced with the normal world all that seriousness is out of place. He has to learn how to incorporate who he is with who he was.

He needed that. So by the end, when he’s taken care of work and gone to the reunion and fired his therapist and saved Debi and explained to her just why he left her in her prom dress, waiting, ten years ago, you get the impression that he really has changed. And one gets the impression that there’s no way in hell Debi will let him fully swing back the other way. Maybe his morals are still “flexible” and sure, he can still handle a variety of weapons, but he’s moving on.

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June 20, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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