The Big Chill (1983)
Left me Feeling the Chill
I know I'm ovulating right now. The ground is ready, I just need someone to plant the seed - Meg
When their friend Alex commits suicide, a group of thirty something college friends reunite whilst attending his funeral. Spending the weekend together gives these 7 friends a chance to revisit their past, remembering their idealistic youth with rose tinted glasses whilst examining where their lives have gone and their unhappiness in their current lives.
The thing with reunion movies such as "The Big Chill" is that they need to connect with you so you feel like one of the gang coming together rather than just an outsider watching the others having the fun in remembering the past. This is where my problem lies with "The Big Chill" because I couldn't connect with any of the characters and so felt like that observer stuck on the outside watching all the fun but never welcomed in to participate. I put it down to a generational thing because technically "The Big Chill" is no different to many other reunion movies such as "Indian Summer" and "Peter's Friends", they have the same sort of storylines of romance, laughs and recollection. But because I was not even a teenager when "The Big Chill" was released in 1983 I struggle to relate to what these old friends have shared, their experiences in the 60's and so on, making me feel left out in the cold.
So as already mentioned the storyline to "The Big Chill" is very similar to many other reunion type movies with something, in this case the funeral of an old friend, reuniting a group of people where they spend time reflecting on their lives, looking back at their idealistic youth and what they've ended up becoming whilst also taking in old rivalries and romances. Although unlike other reunion movies it feels much drier, certainly less sentimental and with out that overall feeling of fun and frivolity which usually tend to fill these movies as in this case the friends don't really relive their past rather than recollect on it. Well that's not entirely true as with these friends are from the 60's there is a theme of love and drugs flowing through the movie, which at times gives the movie a slightly surreal feeling with certain unexpected scenes.
What is evident is that "The Big Chill" relies heavily on the individual characters to make it work, providing the variety of people; the journalist, the solicitor, the businessman, D.J. and TV star as well as the token new friend. Unfortunately the diversity of characters doesn't work because the difference in attitudes doesn't always come across especially after the initial set up where they are all introduced. Not that any of the star names actually put in a bad performance, Kevin Kline is laid back and humorous as Harold Cooper the sort of linchpin between the friends, Glenn Close works well as his distraught wife, Jeff Goldblum is awkwardly amusing as journalist Michael and William Hurt is often funny as drug taking D.J. Nick. Although the best performance comes from Tom Berenger as Sam Weber the star of TV show "J.T. Lancer" and the character seems to have been based on Tom Selleck and his show "Magnum P.I.". Together they all work well along with Meg Tilly who plays the new addition to the gang Chloe and to be honest it all feels surprisingly laid back and natural.
Whilst I struggled to connect with the characters due to the age difference it's hard not to notice a very impressive soundtrack with songs such as "Good Lovin'" by The Rascals, "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "The Tracks Of My Tears" by The Emotions and "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum amongst numerous other memorable tunes. Although it has to be said that an impromptu dance scene whilst the gang are washing up really spoils one of the better musical moments.
What this all boils down to is that "The Big Chill" is a good movie, it's your classic reunion movie and as such has all those elements of romance, recollection and new beginnings. It has a drier feel to most, avoiding going down the obvious sentimental route with more subtle moments of humour to make it just as entertaining as those which favour the obviously sentimental. But for me it just didn't quite charm me and that's because of the generation thing making me feel like the outsider looking in.
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