Grosse Pointe Blank is an interesting blend of action and violence, romance and dark humor. What saves the film from being so-so is John Cusack’s fantastic lead performance, bringing his sarcastic charm as the flawed protagonist, the longtime bachelor and assassin Martin Blank. Martin returns to his hometown for his high school reunion.
Martin is unsure about how he’ll feel at the high school reunion, telling his therapist “They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they’ve all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? ‘I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How’ve you been?'” Before the days of Facebook, reunions were a minefield of embarrassment, or a competition to see who was doing better in life. Did the football stars and cheerleaders who ruled the school end up with a better life than you? Or worse?
Martin feels that he has nothing to show for himself, no family or relationship and a morally corrupt job. But he wants to change. And upon meeting up with his old high school flame, he recognizes that maybe now’s the time to start moving his life in another direction. Maybe now it’s time to have a meaningful relationship, a connection with someone. Isn’t that what life is about? Surely a life lived alone can’t have any real meaning?
This short scene sums up Martin’s inner struggle. Martin talks with a former classmate, she talks about how marriage is better than what people say it is. She asks how Martin’s life is, he replies “In progress.” She then asks him to hold her baby as she gets a bottle. The soundtrack music turns up, David Bowie and Queen’s famous “Under Pressure”. This is another perfect moment of film and music.
We flip back and forth between close ups of the adorable and expressive baby and John Cusack’s curious expression. Martin focuses his on the baby, squinting his eyes and really taking him in. It’s as if he’s saying to himself “I’ve never had feelings like this before. What is this?” The curiosity turns to tenderness, and in the next shot we see him trying to feed the baby his bottle.
Aside from 80s music being included in the soundtrack for nostalgic purposes, the song fits perfectly. Martin is under pressure himself, his inner thoughts being “Get your life together! You’re at your high school reunion and what do you have to show for it?” The lyrics acutely express Martin’s issues:
Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word,
and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves
Although Martin tries to be cool and seem above falling in love, on the inside he knows that’s not true. Love is not just an old fashioned sentiment or overblown creation by greeting card companies. Love is something real. By falling in love or allowing himself to care about others, (like the people on the edge of the night) he will be opening himself up to some scary feelings and vulnerability. But he knows it is for the better. The only way to truly care about yourself and love yourself, is to reach out and connect with other people.
Grosse Pointe Blank is a romantic and funny film, but the film is absolutely held up by John Cusack’s performance and the writing of an incredibly interesting protagonist. This scene is probably the one most defining scene for his character, what really hooks you into watching his story. Not to mention, it’s got great music.