Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"the big chill"

i stayed up late monday night to watch "the big chill" - it was actually tuesday morning since the movie ended well after midnight. i first saw this film as a senior in college - and shortly thereafter the soundtrack went on to become ubiquitous on campus, on fm radio, and later post-college album collections. even now, listening to motown brings back fond memories of this film, which i've seen many times over the last 25+ years!

it's pretty funny to watch jeff goldblum these days on law & order: criminal intent and think back to his smarmy, yet lovable, reporter for people magazine (who could get you a table at elaine's). this was long before he broke through on the remake of "the fly," was an expert on chaos in "jurassic park," or broke alien code in "independence day." a long time has passed since 1983!

same could be said for glenn close's sarah - the most grounded of the bunch. she softened her image from the year earlier - when she played jenny in "the world according to garp" (one of my favorite movies, by the way). only to whipsaw from sarah to a psychotic femme fatale in "fatal attraction" in 1987. some characters are hard to forget.

back to the film, which wasn't the first "reunion" film so to speak (that would go to "return of the secacus seven" a few years earlier). but it would inspire the "thirtysomething" t.v. series a few years later. a bunch of thirtysomething - see how natural that term sounds after all that usage - college friends arrive for the funeral of their mutual friend. after the service they collectively find themselves staying for a long weekend.

the film is an extended meditation on how they inter (or re-) act with each other 15 or so years removed from heyday of their college lives. there are a lot of good moments (and some cliches as well). for the most part the ensemble cast plays it straight. what stands out is the relatively conflict-free weekend they have.

the most anger illicited appears when kevin kline gets pissed at william hurt when he's escorted back with police escort (running a red light and having a bad attitude), when tom berenger gets pissed at hurt for bad-mouthing the deceased memory ("alex died for most of us a long time ago"), or jo beth williams storming away from berenger (when he advises her not to leave her husband for him).

aside from those scenes, it's all so very laid back - the 60's invade the 1980's. a lot of marijuana is smoked, lines of cocaine snorted (thanks to the drug dealing william hurt), and wine drunk (thanks to the hosts). the drug stuff seems like edgy behavior from the vantage point of 2010 - but it was business as usual in the 1980's.

sadly, the film doesn't have much of a payoff when the weekend ends. the story lines are neatly stitched back together and everyone returns to the "real" world. but maybe that is the point - you don't need to justify hanging out with old friends. they were there for a funeral (and that permeated the conversations). but wouldn't they have been just as relaxed with each other (albeit different conversations) at a wedding?

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