Navigating Genre, Tweaking Type: Romance, John Cusack-Style

What traits and conventions characterize performance in romance films?

Professor Holmlund’s talk will respond to this question drawing from illustrations from the work of John Cusack. Professor Holmlund concentrates on John Cusack, studying the ways he plays with “type” within generic contexts in six independent films that span over two decades–The Sure Thing (1985), The Grifters (1990), Grosse Point Blank (1997), Being John Malkovich (1999), High Fidelity (2000) and Grace Is Gone (2007).

As the romantic lead, Cusack always adds his own maverick, “indie”(independent) touches to the “meet cute” (film scene), the delineation of the wrong and right partner, the kiss, the fight, the finale. His ability to play off and with his partners–in romantic comedies and dramas–is key to his success as actor, although also important are solo flourishes that showcase his knack for stormy monologue, abject silence, and odd inconsolability. A performer attuned to his times, it is no coincidence that Cusack became, at the turn of the millennium, per Playboy, “the thinking woman’s sex symbol,” per The Los Angeles Times, “an icon of the indie film world.”