They say that you should write what you know. And after watching this film, (and a little Schitt's Creek) it's clear that Dan Levy certainly knows rich people Christmas parties!
Pictured: "I left my diamond encrusted Rolex in my third Porsche, which was parked by my valet out front".
You thought I was going to say grief, right? I'll admit that it's clear that he knows that too. However, Good Grief kicks off with: a live band, a gigantic tree, designer clothing, champagne, and a moment where everyone sings along to a bespoke Christmas song. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's not a rich person thing. Maybe every British/American Christmas party looks like this. I was under the impression that Christmas piano sing-alongs only happened in the poverty-stricken world of Little Women. But I was wrong! Rich people apparently love a sing-along, too. Sing-alongs are for everyone in the northern hemisphere! I digress...
Pictured: The source of my confusion - an Aussie Christmas. No sing-alongs or sweaters to be found.
Good Grief explores the relationship between Marc (Dan Levy) and his two close friends Sophie (Ruth Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel) in the wake of his husband's unexpected death. Levy establishes a truly melancholy mood throughout the piece. The phrase "melancholy mood" probably sounds like an insult, but it's actually quite the compliment. The audience feels the grief with Marc, through the way that this movie has been created. The film has a slower pace, with lots of shots of scenery interspersed between moments of dialogue. One might question the necessity of these shots, as they occur from start to finish and aren't always used to establish location. However, I think they highlight one of the hardest parts of the grief journey: that the world will keep on spinning with or without that person who has been lost. At one point in the film, one of the character's says, "Isn't art a kind of commemoration of pain" and I think that it could be argued that Good Grief, as a piece of art, certainly commemorates and captures the pain of grief, successfully.
This film is listed as a drama, a romance and a comedy. I must admit that I welcomed those natural funny or ironic moments that occurred throughout the film, as they helped to relieve the tension from time to time. There's quite the sarcastic use of the song It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and an awkward exchange with a stranger at a dinner outing, that come to mind. However, there's a moment at Oliver's funeral that plays like a scene directly out of Schitt's Creek. It's very Moira Rose. And whilst it is quite comedic, it feels slightly out of place in this film. I won't describe it in detail, as it'll ruin the funny, but there are no other moments like this in the movie. And whilst I could see someone behaving like this at a funeral, it still feels like a heightened reality, whilst the rest of Good Grief seems to sit in a very real world.
In terms of the way that Good Grief was filmed, everything just looks so beige. Literally. Beige. I want to say that it was a stylistic choice, symbolising the lack of colour in the world after someone dies...but I tend to think that this is just Levy's favourite colour palette...
Pictured: Beigy-beigeness. Symbolism? I think not...
My hypothesis is reinforced by these images of Levy, on set, directing:
Pictured: Beige sweaters for days.
I'll admit that the Christmas scene is quite warm, in contrast with the rest of the film. This scene occurs before the death of Oliver, so you could still argue that the beige is a stylistic mood choice...but I'd also argue that it's a Christmas scene and I'm not sure how you'd film it in a beige way. I'll ask Charnstar, he'll know.
My favourite shots definitely occur in the art gallery. It is certainly the prettiest moment in the film. It's still very beige though...
In all, Good Grief doesn't make for a stand out movie, but in my honest opinion, I think it might have made a brilliant stage play. Levy's writing is metaphorical and borderline poetic at times. There are a number of monologues throughout this film that have such beautiful prose that it pulled me out of the realism of the story. An extended metaphor about snapdragons and a particularly theatrical monologue in Paris come to mind. Whilst these moments don't seem right on film, I think they'd have a really good home on the stage. Not to mention, there are a ridiculous number of slow walks in this film. Having a conversation? Go for a slow walk:
I'm walkin' here!
Yes, my slow walks comment is made in jest. But it is true and also, it makes for an excellent stage adaptation.
So although I wouldn't really watch Good Grief for a second time on Netflix. I would show up to see that beautiful dialogue on a stage.