Monday, July 12, 2010

Grosse Pointe Blank: A Little Dark Humor

I got into one of those dark humor moods this weekend, so I started watching all my black comedies, like "Heathers," "Dr. Strangelove," and "Dogma."  But none of them hit the spot as much as one of my absolute favorites, so what better time to write about it.  Get out your guns and reunion invitations because we are talking about "Grosse Pointe Blank" today!

From 1997, "Grosse Pointe Blank" tells the story of a hit man, Martin Blank, who starts to become more and more stressed by his work.  He finally decides to go back to his home town in Michigan for his 10-year high school reunion...and pickup a job while he's out there.  Yet when he reconnects with his long-lost high school girlfriend (the love of his life), he begins to question his morals about life and killing.  It's a hilarious comedy starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack, Jeremy Piven, and Alan Arkin.

I love this film!  It's one of my dad's favorites too, so we always get a kick out of watching it together.  Like I've said before, I get my sense of humor mainly from my dad so it's no wonder this is one of our favs.  We love the lighthearted stuff but we also love the dark, satirical stuff, because it's just plain healthy to laugh at the absurdities of life sometimes.  This film is also a good test for guys I've dated.  If they have never seen this film, I always bring it out to show them, and if they don't love it...well, let's just say the relationship doesn't last much longer.
With a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's considered by many to be one of the best comedies of the 90s.  Written by Cusack, Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, and Steve Pink, and directed by George Armitage, it mainly takes place in the real town of Grosse Pointe, a suburb of Detroit.  Cusack liked the film's location because it reminded him of his own home town of Evanston, Illinois, a suburb to the north of Chicago.  Growing up, he and his siblings were a big part of the theater world in Chicago, thanks to a theater group run by Jeremy Piven's dad called the Piven Theatre Workshop.  "Grosse Pointe Blank" became its own reunion of sorts then, because not only was Piven and Cusack's sister Joan in the film, but so was his sister Ann Cusack and brother Bill.  Also, the assassin Felix La PuBelle, the one after John Cusack's character, is Cusack's kickboxing mentor and trainer Benny Urquidez.  Cusack met him after playing aspiring kickboxer Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything..." (1989) and has been training with him ever since.  It was Cusack who decided Urquidez would be perfect for the part in "Grosse Pointe Blank."
They did not, however, get the chance to do the majority of filming in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.  The town of Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe South High School felt it would not be good for the school district to have someone portray a graduate of the school becoming an assassin.  The production team decided to film everything in California instead.  John Marshall High School and Reseda High School in Los Angeles were both used for Grosse Pointe High, and the town of Monrovia, California was used for Grosse Pointe itself.  The only two scenes actually filmed in Michigan are the shots of Blank driving to and from Grosse Pointe along Lakeshore Drive.
And when you watch, be sure to check out all the 80s musical references.  Cusack, a big fan of music, has a tendency to pay homage to his favorite bands in a lot of his films, and "Grosse Pointe Blank" is no exception.  Not only are there lines from songs in the dialogue and old 80s band tour posters, but the soundtrack was put together by The Clash's Joe Strummer.  It includes songs from bands like The Clash, as well as Violent Femmes, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Specials, The Jam, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and a-ha.  The soundtrack became so popular (it reached #31 on the Billboard 200) that they put out a second volume to it a few months later.
So, get your dark kicks this week as you laugh at the 14-body-count comedy "Grosse Pointe Blank."  You're sure to have a good time.  Until Friday.  Have a great week, everyone!
(Post-tidbit:  John Cusack actually went to his 10-year high school reunion in 1994...but only because he and the producers of "Grosse Pointe Blank" bet each other that if they managed to get the financing for the film, they would all have to attend their reunions.)

1 comment:

  1. great movie, i had to research dark comedies for media studies class and this movie is perfect for dark humor thanks for putting this up