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When I was studying for my Masters in Film, one of my tutors in passing remarked on John Cusack: “He plays stalkers in his films”, she said.

Why yes, it hit me. Usually I think of Cusack as a lovable loser, an Everyman, someone trustworthy. However after this revelation, the chilling truth of Cusack’s cinematic victories unnerved me.

If you don’t believe it, let’s look closer at some examples.

Say Anything (1989) evokes the image of a teenage Cusack holding his boombox upwards, iconically championing the average frustrated chump.  However let’s deconstruct the plot. Cusack plays Lloyd Dobler, an underachiever whose girlfriend is set to continue her education abroad.

…Most of the film involves Cusack relentlessly pursuing her.

In 1997 Grosse Pointe Blank graced our screens. Martin Blank (Cussack) is a lackluster hitman who returns to his hometown for a high school reunion. Although he’s an assassin, he proves to have a soft side and seeks out childhood sweetheart Debi (Minnie Driver). Despite contending with a rival killer and focusing on a hit contract…

…Most of the film involves Cusack relentlessly pursuing her.

Then we have High Fidelity (2000). Here Johnny C plays hapless music nerd Rob Gordon. Maybe you remember the hip soundtrack and whimsical playlists. However here’s the entirety of the plot: our hero’s girlfriend, upon realizing that Rob is a slacker and unable to commit, dumps him. Guess what?

…Most of the film involves Cusack relentlessly pursuing her.

Finally 2001 saw the release of Serendipity co-starring Kate Beckinsdale. This charming movie is a Christmas gem and a box-office success. Cusack plays Jonathan Trager who meets and falls for Sara. After a brief encounter, the pair exchange numbers on a $5 bill and a book cover respectively, leaving Fate to decide if they will find the items again.

…Most of the film involves Cusack relentlessly pursuing her.


Scary stuff, right?

Joking aside, yes John Cusack is typecast as lovable slacker-types who inevitably get involved in a spot of stalking. However no one is particularly offended or chilled at this sort of madness.

Unlike films such as Fatal Attraction or Enduring Love the comedic elements definitely help take off the edge. Nevertheless I would assert something more that Cusack’s films teach us.

I definitely do not endorse stalking. However no one is immune to the types of scenarios Mr. Cusack has portrayed (lost-love, self sabotage, dissatisfaction, etc). Not least of all the occasions when we’ve all felt so strongly for someone that they dominate our every waking thought. In this day and age especially, “stalking” is considered a symptom in the wake of Social Media platforms, which make “connecting” at a distance acceptable.

Let’s be real. Love is a form of madness but most of all it is a state which transforms us. Whether it is from cold-hearted killer/nerd/loser/brat, people (like Cusack plays) transform into something more relationship-worthy.

Perhaps the madness is just the medium of this metamorphosis, and maybe this “Cusackian” stalking is just an ultimate expression of Love.

(Well that’s my story and I’m sticking with it, thank you Your Honour).


Christabel Samuel is a writer, director and editor. Having graduated from University College London with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Film Studies she is now a self-taught filmmaker, writer and perpetual learner. She won funding in 2011 for Lust in Translation and has gone on to judge at the London Film Festival, been appointed Head of Film for The Book Magazine and is currently editor-in-chief for The Spread.

Posted on Feb 18, 2014

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