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The Sunflower

REVIEW: Dan Levy’s ‘Good Grief’ is stunning film debut

Photo+courtesy+of+Not+A+Real+Production+Company
Photo courtesy of Not A Real Production Company

I am a die-hard Dan Levy supporter. Ever since I first heard his sassy, sarcastic quips in “Schitt’s Creek,” I’ve been hooked. When I glimpsed the trailer for “Good Grief,” of course, I made plans to watch it. I knew very little about the movie but was excited to go in blind.

When Marc’s husband unexpectedly dies, Marc, played by Dan Levy himself, and his two best friends, played by Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel, embark on an indulgent trip to Paris to confront hard truths. Marc confronts the grieving of his late husband by addressing some of his own issues, as do his friends, and learning to cope with the cyclical nature of grief itself. 

Dan Levy plays pretty much the same character in everything — sensitive, dramatic, often selfish, creative, both self-indulgent and self-deprecating, full of emotion but not ready to express it. Marc is no exception, but Levy’s dedication to this type of character, especially functioning as the protagonist, is something I not only admire but have come to expect when I see him credited. 

Still, “Good Grief” is a complete 180 from his appearance as Benjamin in “The Idol.” Although his role in “The Idol” was very minor, the overall tone of the pieces is wildly different. “Good Grief” also varies wildly from “Schitt’s Creek,” which Levy starred in and wrote for. 

“Good Grief” is hard to accurately sum up. It’s ritzy, melancholic, just pretentious enough — maybe it’s just Parisian. The visuals of the movie create a beautiful setting for the heavier tones of the movie. Honestly, the characters and cinematography save “Good Grief” from feeling like an aimlessly boring movie your parents watch. The plot feels achingly slow and disjointed at times, but I think this drives the message home. 

“Good Grief” offers an interesting perspective on non-monogamy. Although Marc and his husband agreed to an open marriage, Marc never felt truly happy with the arrangement — “I agreed to an open marriage out of fear, not trust,” Marc reveals in the film.

This detail is something I wasn’t expecting but am not surprised to see come from Levy. He does a great job of incorporating a lot of social activism into his work, even in things as simple as creating a movie that both involves gay men and lacks homophobia or writing David Rose in “Schitt’s Creek” as pansexual.

I think “Good Grief” provides a refreshing look at forgiveness as something that cannot be easily defined in black-and-white terms. While Marc discovers more boundaries crossed and rules broken by his late husband, he also discovers more about himself and the depths of his love. “I can feel myself choosing anger to distract from how much I miss him,” he says at one point, which was a notable mark in his character’s development. 

I really appreciate the surge of movies involving gay people where the characters can just exist as people. In the same way the LGBTQ+ community deserves more light-hearted young adult content like “Heartstopper,” the LGBTQ+ community has a right to artsy films with loose plots, too. 

To accompany a melancholic mood, “Good Grief” packs a beautiful soundtrack, featuring stunners like Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” and Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” 

“Good Grief” is a good watch if you like movies centered around characters, not action or a fast-moving plot. It features a ton of tiny, charming details, things like Marc’s wardrobe becoming more and more colorful as he learns to live with his grief and returns to creating art, a practice he had long since abandoned. 

Filled with charming and memorable dialogue throughout, the film ends in a heartfelt conversation, dropping the line, “To avoid sadness is also to avoid love.” The final scene is an art show of Marc’s work in a reclamation of his creativity and love — for himself, his friends, his husband and life. Paired with a classic lopsided smirk-smile from Levy, “Good Grief” has a satisfying ending to wrap up the story. 

Although it’s definitely not the most engaging story-wise, “Good Grief” is well-executed and a feast for the eyes. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes “Schitt’s Creek” would’ve gone on for 20 more seasons or someone looking for a slow-moving film.

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About the Contributor
Sascha Harvey, Opinion Editor
Sascha Harvey is the opinon editor for The Sunflower. A junior majoring in graphic design, this is Harvey's third year on staff and second year as a section editor. He is originally from Arkansas but has no accent to speak of (unless you listen really hard). The graphic design major enjoys covering feature stories and local news. Harvey uses he/him pronouns.

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  • D

    david terryFeb 24, 2024 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for the review. I do wonder if I’m the only person who, having finally seen Marc’s portraits in the closing scene, wonders why the producer/director c/wouldn’t find a good (to use a blunt word) artist-for-hire.

    Reply
  • K

    Kathryn HeflinFeb 20, 2024 at 6:14 pm

    Daniel Levy’s film Good Grief got me personally thru the most painful betrayal of a longtime friend over 30 years I’ve ever endured and I’m 73!! I’ve wanted to write him my appreciation since – and have watched it 4 times. I know it by heart now!!
    It was the most sensitive, evocative, raw, kind portrayal of a loss that was already even in motion before his love dies for a while. That opened a door so that I could see in retrospect the “signs” of what lie ahead that I will have to go thru. I particularly love the dignity of Marc’s choice in how he will live his life onward from that me. Me too, I too am a painter, who quit painting too long ago and the way he told the story reconnected me to my true hearts desire which has always been to honor my sensitive emotional self through the beauty and gratitude of all that moves my heart. Please tell him if you can, or how I might write tobin if not ?

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