Griffin & Phoenix has two things I despise: it is a romantic chick flick and one of the characters is dying ergo also a tear jerker. You can imagine my shock when I found myself actually enjoying this romantic, comedy of sorts, DVD. The subdued and very solid performances by Dermot Mulroney, Griffin, and Amanda Peet, Phoenix, and the excellent low-key way the situations and characters are handled are what make this slightly dark comedy romantic movie a charmer. The soundtrack is pretty cool too.
The dying Griffin, a divorced father of two who sells life insurance, meets Phoenix (Amanda Peet), a college admissions officer, in a college Death 101 class he is auditing. He is infatuated, asks her out, and somehow convinces her to do so. Their first date goes very well. She keeps thinking about Griffin, he shows up again, they start dating.
What makes Griffin and Phoenix work is how subdued everything is. Director Ed Stone is happy telling an interesting story about two interesting characters played by two very good actors and is not interested in getting in the way with cute technical tricks, hitting the viewer over the head with his point, or twisting the viewer's arm into feeling whatever emotion he or she is supposed to feel at a given point. In other words none of those dumb musical clues. I like intelligent movies for intelligent people and this DVD is one of those. Even the comedy, which can be dark at times, is subtle and intelligent. I especially liked the parasailing scene.
Yes, there is a reveal halfway through Griffin & Phoenix that could have pushed this movie into the heavily melodramatic but it very quickly gets back to what it does best: tell the story of two lost people who have found each other with a bit of a dark tint.
Griffin and Phoenix is a DVD a single guy keeps in his library for those evenings he has a lady friend over. It shows he is a sensitive guy and it is a rare instance of the chick flick where he won't find himself having to explain the entire male species. It also shows he is a smart dude because chances are no matter how good this movie is she might not have seen it.