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HomeUncategorized'Good Grief' critique: Dan Levy plunges into romantic comedy territory

‘Good Grief’ critique: Dan Levy plunges into romantic comedy territory

The esteemed director Dan Levy was undoubtedly aware that creating a movie sequel to the effervescent, humorous, and career-launching surprise hit that was his Emmy-winning “Schitt’s Creek” wouldn’t be as straightforward as duplicating its winning formula onto the requirements of a feature film. Fortunately, “Good Grief,” the holiday-scented comedy-drama that he also penned and stars in, feels distinct. If “Schitt’s” was a tangy snack with a commendably gooey center, “Good Grief” — about surmounting loss with exasperating friends in luxurious settings — favors its flavor and sweetness in a more balanced mixture.

If only it felt like a complete banquet. Ultimately, “Good Grief” pledges more than its basic elements of romantic comedy and good intentions can deliver. Nevertheless, within that inviting ambiance, there are numerous delights, commencing with Levy’s cynically romantic gay protagonist with a homo-neurotic charm. There’s also a suitably complex situation necessitating a journey to Paris (as one should), interspersed with the remarkable Ruth Negga providing vivacious silent-film-era-worthy flamboyance as “a lot,” as she describes her character.

We are initially introduced to Levy’s character Marc, a painter turned illustrator, at the festive Christmas party that he and his charismatic, best-selling author husband, Oliver (Luke Evans), host annually at their residence in London. However, the festivities come to an abrupt halt when Oliver departs early for a business trip and tragically dies just a block away in a car accident.

Right from the start, in a pleasantly piquant funeral scene, Levy demonstrates how grief is never singular (and not always devoid of humor). For an oblivious and self-absorbed actor from one of the movies adapted from Oliver’s young adult novels (a brief appearance by Kaitlyn Dever), death symbolizes the end of a lucrative franchise. Conversely, for the father who learned to accept his son writing about princesses (a superb portrayal by David Bradley), sorrow and gratitude can harmoniously coexist.

Dan Levy, left, and Luke Evans in the film “Good Grief.”


For Marc, however, grief is a tumultuous journey, compounded by the revelation a year later that Oliver had intended to leave him for someone else. Shattered and bewildered, Marc travels to Paris with friends Sophie (Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel) in tow, in search of both the origins of a betrayal and a hoped-for fresh start.

One cannot criticize Levy for wanting his inaugural film to indulge in its Europhilia, transitioning from Christmas-spirited London to intimate Paris. Embedded within the café conversations and contemplative strolls — including one that Marc has with a potential romantic interest (Arnaud Valois) — are astute insights into overlooked lives and accepted behavior within close relationships. Also worth noting is a heartrending playlist that invokes the nostalgic vibes associated with Bonnie Raitt and Neil Young.

As mature as “Good Grief” occasionally appears, it also feels somewhat superficial, plotted without sufficient consideration for coherence, or what might necessitate deeper exploration beyond a well-crafted quip. Levy’s prominently featured melancholy is compelling, but even with Negga’s captivatingly flighty theatrics and Patel’s convincing seriousness, these characters lack the depth required for the third act’s friendship crisis to effectively elevate the film from a noticeable slump in energy. Regarding Marc’s journey, the less said, the better, as art therapy ranks much lower on the list of acceptable romantic comedy clichés than witty one-liners or the backdrop of the City of Lights.

Marc is mourning Oliver, but one could certainly interpret something else within the emotional dynamics of “Good Grief”: Levy attempting to find his way post-“Schitt’s Creek.” This likable aspect of this uneven yet sincere film is evident in Levy’s visage, tailored for comedy yet also delicately pensive, fearful, and inquisitive. “Good Grief” may not entirely fulfill as a profound and heartfelt endeavor, but it cultivates a longing to witness more of what we know Levy is capable of offering.

‘Good Grief’

Rating: R, for language and brief drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Now streaming on Netflix

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