Movie Diary 9/20/2021

Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage, 1997). Maybe it’s the reckless blend of comedy and violence, but this movie holds up pretty well. Armitage’s touch, a certain kind of jumpiness and screwball timing, gets into the film in various ways, including Minnie Driver’s performance, which has a scattershot feel appropriate for a character whose reactions can’t really be explained in a realistic context. It has a lot of the signposts of the American 80s film, but it’s also a commentary on the American 80s film. Watching John Cusack in his youth brought back the era more than any of the costumes or set design; from 1985 to 2000, his face was attached to a particular idea of a young leading man (or, because Cusack himself seemed to chafe at the idea of being an ideal, sometimes it was a criticism of the idea of a young leading man). Here, he lets other people act up around him, and in truth his performance seems a little vague, but maybe Cusack guessed that fit the character. In any case, as Cusack has slipped out of leading-man status, his run during this period is era-defining – not the movies themselves, you understand, but the face, and the quizzical, searching manner.

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