‘Good Grief’ Review: Dan Levy’s Netflix Film Is A Pretty-Looking But Hollow Portrait Of Sadness


If you think about it—and even if you don’t put too much thought into it—the affluent have always benefited from the trials and tribulations of humankind. When their status was jeopardized, and they faced some backlash for hoarding more wealth than they could spend in a lifetime, they bounced back because the common folk didn’t have the privilege to revolt against them all the time. That led to the idolization of the rich, as the stories of billionaire entrepreneurs were framed as something that could inspire the general public to amass large amounts of money by simply “working hard.” The criminal activities and the benefits of being born into rich families were glossed over. Now, since the biopics that humanize the flag bearers of capitalism have been done to death, the process of humanizing the privileged is becoming a little more generic via the genre I like to call “Did you know rich people have feelings?” Netflix’s latest, Good Grief, squarely falls in this category.

In his directorial debut, Dan Levy writes and directs the story of three friends, Marc, Sophie, and Thomas. They live in London. Marc is an illustrator for the books that his husband, Oliver, writes. Thomas does something professionally, and Sophie also probably does something professionally. Sophie is in a relationship with a guy called Terrance. Thomas is in search of love but is failing to find a romantic partner. They all come together, along with several other rich people, to celebrate Christmas. Then they bid goodbye to Oliver since he has to go to Paris for a book signing. But Oliver doesn’t make it very far, as he is killed in a traffic collision. During the mourning period, Marc finds out that Oliver was seeing someone else, and that prompts him to take a trip to Paris with Sophie and Thomas. They partake in some self-discovery, iron out the issues between each other, and then decide to return home when they feel like they’ve changed as a group and as individuals. And that’s what Good Grief is about.

Dan Levy is most popular for his work in the television series Schitt’s Creek, where he plays a character who belongs to an affluent family that has gone bankrupt, thereby forcing them to live like “regular people.” Since the members of the Rose family were the protagonists of the series, the showrunners obviously portrayed them in a somewhat sympathetic light. But, for the most part, Schitt’s Creek had a heightened level of self-awareness about how ignorant rich people can be. Dan Levy’s off-screen persona also seems to have some level of self-awareness. However, for Good Grief, he has clearly abandoned all synonyms of self-awareness and embraced every form of ignorance there is. Every line of dialogue sounds like it has been ripped straight out of a self-help book or one of those Instagram or TikTok profiles that offer “free therapy,” even though the influencer in question doesn’t have a professional degree in therapy. Levy crafts moments where the characters can open up to each other, instead of pretending like they are on a reality show, and that wall never comes down. And if that was the entire point of the film, I would’ve been okay with it. The fact that Levy pats all the characters on their backs for transforming into someone better without actually doing any introspection is what irks me.

It’s perfectly okay to see Good Grief as a film where three friends just chill around in Paris and then come back home. But if the characters talk in the most idiotic way possible and the frames, the sets, and the costumes look like they’ve been inspired by Pinterest so that it can be posted on one of the hundred social media profiles that Netflix has, with the dumbest caption imaginable, then the premise becomes questionable. If the struggle to get over a death lasts for less than a week, is the protagonist even grieving? What kind of grief requires a trip to Paris? How rich does one need to be to go to Paris for a few days to deal with loss? How can three people simply abandon their jobs in this economy and “mourn” in Paris by looking at Monet’s paintings, singing karaoke, and having onion soup? Can’t they do that in London? How are they affording that lifestyle in London? And while you can call that nitpicking, you can’t avoid the big question: who is this relatable for? I know that everybody’s version of grieving is different, but Paris? Come on. To be clear, I don’t have a problem with the aimless portrayal of getting over a bad spot in life. It’s just that the aimlessness is so unambitious that it constantly forces me to look at the lack of irony in the depiction of these insanely rich people telling themselves that their life is a “mess.”

I don’t know if anyone in Good Grief is giving a good performance. That opening scene is fine, but it’s all downhill after that. I like Himesh Patel, Ruth Negga, and Dan Levy. They have given fantastic performances in the past. But does that mean I want to see them whine endlessly about a whole lot of nothing? No, not really. You can actively feel all the actors trying to ground their respective characters. However, the writing is just so hollow that it’s impossible to elicit any kind of empathy. Okay, to be fair, Kaitlyn Dever and Emma Corrin’s cameos highlight the performative nature of the ecosystem that the central trio exists in. They literally show how self-centered and pretentious rich people can be. And while they are treated as jokes, the rest of the characters are meant to be taken seriously for some inexplicable reason. It feels like the film is actively working against itself because Dan Levy is so adamant about sending the message to the world that rich people have real problems. At the cost of sounding repetitive, if a problem can be solved by throwing money at it—money that’s extracted from the bottomless pit of cash at one’s disposal—then that’s not really a problem.

In addition to all the aforementioned caveats, Good Grief is just a boring film. It doesn’t have a single scene that feels immersive or overwhelming, you know, because it’s about “sadness.” Everything about it is way too surface-level. Paint Drying (yes, that’s the name of the film) by Charlie Shackleton is better than this. Why? Well, firstly, Paint Drying is political in an evergreen way. And secondly, during its 607-minute-long running time, you can project your thoughts about society, friendship, loss, and more onto that wall, which, in my opinion, is certainly far more soul-stirring than a trio of rich folks in Paris going on and on about how sad they are. We need more “eat the rich” movies like Knives Out, Glass Onion, Triangle of Sadness, The Menu, Parasite, Ready or Not, Neeyat and Us to battle the plague of “feel for the rich” movies.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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