Screen Junkies » the big chill Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Mon, 15 Sep 2014 23:40:14 +0000 en hourly 1 Soundtrack Studies: ‘The Big Chill’ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:01:08 +0000 Penn Collins This soundtrack is the musical equivalent of wrapping a chenille blanket around someone, handing them some tea, and repeating softly, "We're all in this together, and you're doing great."

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Two weeks ago, when I was discussing the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack, I mentioned that nostalgia is “a big card to play.” It’s a very evocative technique that, for a film or music, takes the viewer/listener back to another time, ushering them through their own lives, rather than taking them on a journey in a vacuum through the story.

In both Grosse Pointe Blank and The Big Chill, the nostalgic music was largely diegetic, meaning the characters in the films can hear it. In the case of Grosse Pointe Blank, the nostalgic efforts aren’t directly pandering to the audience. Martin Blank can hear the music of his high school years, at his high school reunion, and it forces him to acknowledge and study the normal life he eschewed. Not groundbreaking stuff, buy it made for a pretty fun film and terrific soundtrack.


The Big Chill is one of those films about “growing up.” Which is fine, growing up is a big part of life. Without growing up, we all would still be babies, and how would we eat at new restaurants?

The Big Chill examines a group of a half-dozen friends who attended college together in the late 60′s who are brought back together in 1983 or so after their friend commits suicide. The cast remains fairly iconic to this day with Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Meg Tilly, and William Hurt. They stay the weekend together to find that they’re all suffering from pretty unremarkable adult problems – they’re broke, being cheated on, cheating, baby-crazy, etc.

So, these adults have all these adult problems. But unlike the age today where you can’t swing a dead cat without running into a Buzzfeed list of “25 Worst Things About Growing Up,” or reading an article about how 30 year-olds can’t find jobs and live at home, no one was really bitching about growing up THAT much in 1983. If they were, it wasn’t on a platform as large as a movie screen. So, that nostalgia that we’re sick of and the problems that young-ish adults face aren’t exactly a revelation. But what we see throughout this entire film, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, are these miserable-ish people all trying to go home again. And that’s sad in the context of the movie, then it becomes sad in a different way when Baby Boomers make this film and its soundtrack anthemic to their generation.

And there’s no more effective, or heavy-handed way to drive that point across by playing songs from the characters’ halcyon days, where everything was great, and kids were being kids. Through the lens of 30 years of hindsight, the premise reads as quaint and the soundtrack to support is so on-the-nose that it seems to have been curated through a survey by the U.S. Department of Innocuous Nostalgia.

Now granted, I can’t say I’m of the generation that found kicking back with a doobie and listening to Three Dog Night and The Temptations to be a “good time,” but that’s ok. I understand it. I don’t actually, but for the sake of diplomacy and to appear magnanimous, I’ll say I do.

Another interesting aspect here is the time passed between the present for the characters and the era they look back to. It’s not that far back. Can you be nostalgic 15 years back? You can if you’re a fashion designer or remaking a crappy movie, but it’s hard to take any pop culture from 15 years ago that seriously. Here’s a list of the Top 100 songs of 1999. Take one of them seriously. I dare you.

The good news with so much of this soundtrack being diegetic is that the director, Lawrence Kasdan, doesn’t seem to be breaking the fourth wall, tapping you on the shoulder, then whispering, “Remember this song?” to lure you in. Thank God for small miracles there.

The bad news is that seeing the characters run for refuge in the music of their youth isn’t as heartening as one would hope. For instance, after a particularly traumatic dinner, the “gang” dusts themselves off and does the dishes.

If I didn’t recognize Glenn Close, I would have sworn this was an early-80′s commercial for Tupperware. It seems that trite.

However, the skepticism surrounding any overture to our youth as a marketing ploy probably didn’t exist back then, and so people listening to a bunch of catchy pop 15 years after its prime for no particular reason seems like a crass exercise, but it’s not like people aren’t doing that right now. I wish I could say that I was listening to Ricky Martin or Crazy Town as I was writing this, but I’m not. I’m listening to my air conditioner and a few birds. Which no one would care about because it doesn’t harken back to simpler times.

But it’s pretty nice, even if it wouldn’t make for a great film. But if I was listening to a song right now, it would probably be this:

Warning: It won’t make doing the dishes any better, nor will it bring your dead friends back. You’re going to need Three Dog Night for that.

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In Honor Of ‘American Reunion’, Here Are 6 Other Reunion Movies Set In America Fri, 23 Mar 2012 20:55:15 +0000 Penn Collins Get ya nostalgia on.

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Nostalgia is a hard thing to get right in movies. When done poorly, it can seem like a whole film can be predicated on the sentiment, “Huh. I remember that,” with little fanfare or effort. When done properly, nostalgia can overcome the characters and the audience, transporting them back to a bygone time with powerful emotion.

However, that sentiment can be difficult to convey in 90 minutes with characters we’re just meeting. Thus, film franchises can often play to nostalgia with ease, as the characters have already been developed, so we can get right to the plot, as is done in the upcoming American Reunion movie. However, establishing a film franchise isn’t as easy at it sounds, so many of the most memorable (good, bad, or otherwise) reunion films are stand alone, taking us back to high school, college, or even grade school.

These are their stories.

(cue Law & Order music)

The Big Chill

Perhaps the ultimate reunion movie, this film brings back together a gaggle of college friends 15 years later for the funeral of a friend. Characters from many different stations in life all get together to reminisce about the old days.

This film has proven to be fairly polarizing, as many feel that the smug, whiney characters embodied much of what would prove to be wrong in the 1980’s, while still maintaining many of the sensibilities that made people hate hippies in the late 1960’s.

Others feel that it’s a pretty accurate look at both those periods, for better or worse, in a “don’t shoot the messenger” fashion. The soundtrack offers a trove of hits from the 60’s and 70’s, and consequently faces similar criticism, especially from those record store clerks in High Fidelity.

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion

The name says it all. High school reunions are often dreaded by those who were once popular and now aren’t, as well as those who weren’t popular and still aren’t. In fact, the only people that really should like reunions are the rags to riches story, but they’re generally above the competition having achieved success later in life.

While Romy and Michelle certainly didn’t become world beaters, they want to convince everyone that they are, even claiming that they invented Post-It notes for 3M, which is pretty damn funny. Of course, their resiliency pays off, and they end up with the reunion of their dreams, even flying off in a helicopter.

And, of course, the whole thing is soundtracked with some killer 1980’s songs. This film is worth it for the “Time after Time” interpretive dance alone.

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