Viking Night: Grosse Pointe Blank
By Bruce Hall
July 31, 2012
Nothing puts people in the mood for love quite like a John Cusack romantic stalker comedy. John Wayne made westerns. Bruce Willis does action pictures. John Cusack specializes in life affirming Romantic Stalker Classics. These are the films where an emotionally arrested borderline paranoid schizophrenic spends the first act pining over a lost relationship, the second stalking her, and the third making her like it. And audiences swoon because they think it's charming. But if you stop to think about it, the guy you're rooting for is basically just a serial killer who's too neurotic to kill.
In this case his name is Martin Blank (John Cusack), and he's a dapper international assassin whose life is anything but glamorous. A violently unstable competitor named Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) wants to bully him out of business. He's filled with latent anxiety about the morality of his job. There's a girlfriend shaped hole in his heart that he fills with recurring dreams of his high school sweetheart. His terrified therapist wants him to stop calling. And his henpecking secretary (Joan Cusack) is pushing him to go to his ten year high school reunion.
Then, a botched hit forces him to accept a job in his old hometown of Grosse Pointe, MI on the eve of his class reunion. It's already pretty extraordinary for someone to need a professional hit in a town of five thousand. So it’s a double coincidence for Blank's assignment to be of particular inconvenience inconvenience to Grocer, who retaliates by selling his colleague out to the Feds. There's also another hit man in town looking for Blank and when he discovers all this, you'd think he'd leave. But it turns out his old flame Debi (Minnie Driver) is still in town, working at the local radio station.
And as Blank sits outside in his car, rocking back and forth and staring at her, he decides to take stock of his life.
He’s a professional killer who feels guilty about killing. He has no past. His home and his parents are gone. Why not start over? Debi conveniently mentions on air that she’s single and disillusioned about men, so Blank decides to just drop by the station. He goes inside, barges into the booth while she's in the middle of a spot and surprises her. This is a critical point in the movie because if this is Gary Oldman, and he stabs her 50 times, it's a psychological thriller. But since it's John Cusack, who has soulful eyes, and he asks her on a date, it's romantic. Someone you haven’t seen in ten years sashays into the building where you work and just appears behind you in your cubicle, unannounced. That’s romantic?
But that's not the creepy part. The creepy part is that Debi's into it.
We discover that Blank stood her up at Senior Prom before dropping off the face of the earth for a decade. Now he rolls into town dressed like the Unabomber, stalks her outside her office and leaves. He comes back dressed like David Copperfield, says he's a professional killer and asks her to be his date, ten years late. Does Debi call the police, or brain him with an ashtray? No, she puts him on the air and asks her listeners to make the decision for her. Because someone would do that. These are the people we're being asked to root for. A lovestruck psycho and his spinster ex-girlfriend who lives with her parents and takes dating advice from strangers.