It’s Been 10 Years Since The 10-Year Anniversary Of ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’!
Celebrating the most beloved John Cusack film of 1997... except for Con Air.
Want to feel old? 2017 marks 10 years since the 10th anniversary of seminal-ish cult film Grosse Pointe Blank. It’s hard to believe that only 10 years ago it was 10 years since John Cusack shot his way into our hearts with his comedy about a hitman heading home to attend his 10-year high school reunion!
If you are too young to remember the film, here’s a refresher: John Cusack plays Martin Q. Blank, a professional hitman, who is resisting a push from rival hitman Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) to form some sort of assassin’s union. When a new job requires Martin to go back to his hometown of Grosse Pointe for the first time in 10 years, he decides to attend his 10th high school reunion, and comes across a whole lot of familiar faces, including his first love Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver). But Grocer and other contract killers are hot on Martin’s tail, and the small town of Grosse Point soon finds itself in the middle of an assassin’s war!
But we’re not here to remember the film, we’re here to remember the 10th anniversary of the film. How did the world mark the decennial of the 74th highest domestic grossing American film of 1997?
Shockingly, when we look back at the coverage from 2007, we find a dearth of reviews, revisitations or reappraisals. An AV Club interview with Cusack from 2007 mentions Grosse Pointe Blank in passing, but completely fails to note the significance of the date. The only actual article we could find was this one from “men’s entertainment” website Double Viking, which found space for its “Real Men Love Grosse Pointe Blank” feature between thinkpiece “Elizabeth Hurley Voted Best Body In Britain” and eventual political news story “Donald Trump Shaves Vince MacMahon’s Head”.
From the mountaintop of 2017, it seems a shame that we missed this opportunity. With two intractable Middle Eastern wars, an escalation of tensions in the Russia-Belarus energy dispute, and the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith, the world could have used some collective healing in 2007. And yet the one celebration that was ideally suited to soothing humanity — the 10th birthday of 1997’s most delightful black romantic comedy except for As Good As It Gets — completely passed us by.
Looking back, it seems like less of a failure in ourselves, and more that the world simply wasn’t ready for this particular brand of nostalgia. The concept of celebrating the round number anniversary of every somewhat-fondly-remembered film was yet to properly take hold. Combing through internet archives, we believe we’ve been able to identify the moment that this wave arrived, and turned frivolous content filler to fully-fledged feature story.
In 2009, the home video re-release of Fight Club proclaimed it the “10th Anniversary Edition”, earnestly marking the date for a generation of cinephiles for whom 1999 was the distant past. This was significant, because Fight Club itself was a film that pierced the psyche of the generation that was just beginning to commodify online film writing. The disc’s banner proclamation stirred something in them: if we can mark the 10-year anniversary of this film, why not every film?
Why did Grosse Pointe Blank, the most beloved John Cusack film of 1997 except for Con Air, miss this boat?
Within a few years, pop culture sites were fuelled by round anniversaries. The concept exploded in 2012, with The Verge asking how Minority Report had predicted the future 10 years ago, The Huffington Post wondering what had become of Eminem 10 years after 8 Mile, and Indiewire creating a dangerous precedent by marking the 10th anniversary of The Bourne Identity with “5 Things You Might Not Know About The Bourne Identity”. It seems strange now that they couldn’t pad the list out to a more pertinent 10, but it was a simpler time.
By the following year, nostalgic articles had permeated the mainstream, with Daily Beast speaking with Sofia Coppola about the 10th anniversary of Lost In Translation, Entertainment Weekly reporting on the School of Rock cast’s 10-year reunion, and Elle interviewing Richard Curtis about why Love Actually was still so popular a whopping 10 years on.
You couldn’t move for the cottage industry of round number anniversary thinkpieces, and the internet settled into its new, endlessly-renewable business model. It will always be the birthday of some vaguely beloved piece of pop culture, and commemorations can be hung on the calendar like the birds in The Birds, which this year celebrates its 55th anniversary.
So why did Grosse Pointe Blank, the most beloved John Cusack film of 1997 except for Con Air, miss this boat?
Examining the dates, it seems that the film fell short of mythology by a whisker, its birthday coming two years before that Fight Club disc. By the time this form of reminiscence was de rigueur, Grosse Point Blank’s 1oth birthday had gone, and nobody was writing about 15h birthdays. Fifteen is far too unsatisfying and awkward a number to undergird an essay.
The results of a survey run by Freelance Writing Gigs show that the average age for online journalists is somewhere between 25 and 34, with writers more likely to be female. This means that the youngest writer was five when Grosse Pointe Blank premiered and the oldest was 14. Taking the median, how many nine-year-old girls were, in 1997, watching excessively violent films that traded on late 1980s nostalgia?
Nowadays, with a generation of film content providers too young to have an eyewitness memory of anything from the 20th century, a generation of cult movies will slip through the nostalgic cracks. Much like Debi Newberry waiting on the steps of her house in her $700 dress for Martin Q. Blank to take her to prom, Grosse Pointe Blank waits hopefully for a reminiscence that will never come.
But Debi did eventually get picked up by Martin, 10 years later. So perhaps now, 10 years on from the 10-year anniversary that never was, we may finally find it in our hearts to pay tribute to what was undoubtedly 1997’s most beloved film about a high school reunion, except for Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
Lee Zachariah is a writer and journalist. He co-hosted the ABC2 film comedy series The Bazura Project, and is a co-presenter of film podcast Hell Is For Hyphenates. He tweets at @leezachariah