It’s generally difficult for me to come up with “Top Five” lists on my own. If given a list of things, I can put them in order, but I can’t pick from, say, a vast field of movies and pick my favorite five. My default answer to “What’s your favorite movie?” is Batman (the Tim Burton one), most likely because I’ve seen it more than any other movie (and because, well, it’s awesome). But rounding out the rest of the list is difficult. Ghost Busters, Garden State, Unforgiven — how do you rank things so vastly different?
So I tend to speak in nonspecifics – “This movie’s in my top three,” “that song’s in my current top ten” – that kind of thing.
This movie’s definitely in my top three: Grosse Pointe Blank. John Cusack movies are in their own category (reference: Better Off Dead), as he’s got this certain character that he does/is that’s infinitely cooler than any other movie characters out there. I’ve heard it explained this way: Girls want to be with him, guys want to be him. I’ve heard rumors he’s not so cool in real life, but let’s stick with Martin Blank, Lane Meyer, and Lloyd Dobler here, shall we?
(There might be spoilers ahead, I don’t know. You’ve been sorta-warned.)
In Grosse Pointe Blank Cusack plays Martin Blank, a hit man who goes to his 10-year high school reunion. He’s in town to do a job, but he’s also wrestling with seeing the girl he left on Prom Night ten years ago without so much as a “by your leave.” On top of that he’s got competing hitmen trying to kill him and some government guys after him, too. He’s been kind of down lately and has been kind of seeing a shrink, a guy who really doesn’t want to talk to him because he’s afraid of Martin.
Debi (the girl) finds out he’s a hitman after stumbling across him over a recently deceased “bad guy,” and any sort of “we might be okay even after the ten year absence” thing is quickly destroyed. But then Martin goes on to save her father’s life and the end of the movie sees them heading off into the sunset together. Too pat? Maybe. Unbelievable? Sure. Hoped for? You bet.
I love the movie for many reasons. Cusack, of course, and the traditional Cusack snappy dialogue. The humor. The juxtapositions. The music.
But it hit me recently what I liked most about it: the redemption. Here’s this guy who kills people for money. He loses his taste for it (not quite the same thing as “realizes it’s wrong,” but, hey) and wants to pick up where he left off with the girl he loved. Not a chance, she says. In fact, after she finds out what he does and she is storming out, he tries to call her back. She whips around and says very deliberately, “You don’t get to have me.” Translation: You messed up, and because you did, I’m forever out of your reach. It’s a powerful, sad moment. Of course, by the end of the movie things are different, but right then it’s big. She leaves and Martin lays on the bed, knowing he’s out, he’s done, he has no hope of ever being with her.
Then he does something heroic, saves the day… and gets another chance. I love that. Sure, we don’t know what happens after the movie ends (can we get a sequel already?!?) and he could go on to mess the whole thing up in normal, everyday ways that people mess up relationships, but he gets that second chance and to me that’s awesome.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to re-meet people I used to know “way back when.” They’ve been happy to see me, and it’s weird. I kind of feel like I’m getting that second chance myself. And I see how they’ve done since I last saw them (and some of them are doing really, really well) and it reminds me of the reunion – Martin’s going through this great crisis of life and he’s meeting happy mothers, succesful realtors, near-death experience survivors – all these other people, and it throws into contrast what he’s been doing the last ten years.
At one point during the reunion, he sits down at a table with a friend from high school who has her very young baby with her. She asks Martin to hold him while she gets something from her purse. Martin initially balks, but then holds the kid on the mother’s further insistence. There’s a good minute or two of Martin looking at this baby, and you sense he’s realizing he might want to settle down and have one of these himself (which would, of course, require him getting out of the killing people business).
The baby’s mother at one point asks Martin, “So, how’s your life?”
“In progress,” he responds. He’s right on the edge of big changes and he senses that things could maybe turn out right.
“In progress.” I like that. It’s going on and I’m doing stuff and who knows how it’ll end?
“In progress” indeed.