The List: Nine greatest John Cusack characters

Brad Keefe
“High Fidelity”

 No American actor is as responsible for my distorted view of romantic love as John Cusack.

Cusack will be attending a screening of “High Fidelity” at the Palace Theatre on Friday, Feb. 15, followed by a moderated discussion with Alive’s Erica Thompson. In his honor, I ranked my favorite Cusack characters.

1. Rob Gordon in “High Fidelity”

“Hi, Rob … you fucking asshole!” This quote, delivered by Rob’s sister, Liz (played by actual sister Joan Cusack), really gets to the heart of the character. Gordon’s journey through his romantic past is supremely narcissistic (he’s quite begrudging in admitting any of it was his fault). So why is Gordon the best Cusack character? Because by the end of the movie he finally shows signs of growing up. Take notes, guys.

2. Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything”

“I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career.” Let’s not blame Lloyd Dobler for the rise of the Toxic Nice Guy, because he was the real deal — prone to puppy dog love and awash in teenage emotions, but a genuinely good guy. Take more notes, guys.

3. Craig Schwartz in “Being John Malkovich”

Playing the nebbish puppeteer in Spike Jonze’s wonderfully weird dramedy, Cusack perhaps showed off his acting talent more here than in his most signature roles. Craig is the kind of neurotic character that so often comes from the mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

4. Martin Q. Blank in “Grosse Pointe Blank”

A paid assassin on a job that coincides with his 10th high school reunion, Blank is a rare chance for Cusack’s nice-guy stereotype to take on some dark edges.

5. Lane Meyer in “Better Off Dead”

Hey, have we mentioned yet that a lot of characters and plots from movies of our past seem problematic today? It’s not likely we’d see a comedy about a suicidal teen these days, but there’s something about Lane’s down-on-his-luck charm and the slapstick nature of the whole affair that works.

6. Mike Enslin in “1408”

Here’s one more unexpected turn for Cusack. It’s another Stephen King adaptation with a tortured author as a central character. This isn’t Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” but this movie and character deserve more love.

7. Walter “Gib” Gibson in “The Sure Thing”

Another example of this being a different time in teen comedies was this tale of Walter, a horny teenager making a cross-country trip to meet a beautiful young woman, only to fall in love with another beautiful young woman along the way. (Yes, men wrote all of these movies.)

8. Adam in “Hot Tub Time Machine”

Cusack played the straight man in this comedy, but there’s also this winking sense that he was just a grown-up version of the characters he played in his teen comedies, so the casting couldn’t have been better.

9. U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin in “Con Air”

OK, so this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced trash didn’t really have an artistic impact beyond that enduring gif of Nicolas Cage’s blowing hair, but you have to admit that it’s kind of hilarious that the person charged with controlling a plane full of psychopath prisoners was … John Cusack.