In Netflix’s comedy-drama film ‘Good Grief,’ protagonist Marcus “Marc” Dreyfus’ husband Oliver Alston is a globally renowned author. His ‘Victoria Valentine’ novels, which serve as source materials for a major Hollywood franchise, catapulted him into international stardom. Oliver dies while he sets out to leave London for Paris for a book signing. When Marc goes to the French city with his friends, the staff at a Loewe store recognizes his husband’s name, which makes it clear that he is famous in the place. Like Marc, Oliver is not based on a real person. The ‘Victoria Valentine’ novels do not have real-life counterparts either. Still, they are immensely integral to the narrative!
The Star Author and His Famed Novels
Dan Levy’s ‘Good Grief’ is a highly nuanced drama. As a screenwriter, Levy had made use of fiction to weave a commendably subtle narrative to explore the theme of self-discovery through Marc’s journey. Oliver’s identity and stardom as an author, along with his novels, play an integral part in the film. Before marrying Oliver, Marc was a painter. He also had a close relationship with his mother. However, Oliver’s arrival in his life as his husband changed his world severely. Marc withdrew from his expansive world to limit himself to the world of his husband. Even the strength of his relationship with his mother waned.
As an artist, Marc stopped painting after becoming the better half of Oliver. He limited his creation as an artist to drawing illustrations for his husband’s ‘Victoria Valentine’ novels. He started to live in the shadow of Oliver’s stardom as a part-time illustrator for the latter. Even when the author took months to write a novel, Marc didn’t return to painting as he found comfort as an occasional illustrator for his husband. To establish Marc’s withdrawal from his original world, it was important for Levy to conceive Oliver as a larger-than-life figure with international recognition. That can be the reason why the screenwriter created the character as a renowned author.
The significance of Marc’s withdrawal is evident in the climax of the comedy-drama movie. The artist rediscovers himself and expands his world by returning to painting. He paints the portraits of the author, Sophie, and Thomas to regain what he once was. Marc goes beyond his identity as an illustrator, a career he chose for his husband, to become who he really is. Thus, Oliver’s life as an author and his novels lay the foundation for the journey of Marc’s self-discovery.
‘Good Grief’ is also a movie that explores the aftermaths of death. Marc doesn’t get a grieving period before getting into negotiations with Oliver’s publisher. He gets forced to be practical and manage the affairs with the help of his lawyer Imelda. Before he can move on or adapt to the absence of Oliver, he is indirectly asked to leave the latter’s house as well. The film shows how practicalities replace empathy in reality through these developments. For these scenes to work out well, Oliver has to be a wealthy figure, which further showcases why his identity as an author matters.
Even though Oliver and his novels are fictional, parallels can be drawn with real-life writers and their works. In the film, the author’s decision to not fast-track the creation of his novels makes his fans long for their release. In a scene, Marc talks about several teenage girls waiting for Oliver to do his job so that they can return to the universe of Victoria Valentine. The incident reminds us of ‘Game of Thrones’ admirers “pestering” George R.R. Martin to complete ‘The Winds of Winter,’ the sixth novel in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ fantasy series.
Although thematically ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and the ‘Victoria Valentine’ novels are different, they both are fantasy novel series. Since the world of entertainment’s current obsession is superhero narratives, Levy might have found it suitable to make the titular character of Oliver’s novels someone with the superpower of telepathy.