If you haven't seen The Big Chill, go do it. I'm serious, just go watch it. You know how Kevin Kline is pretty great in most of his movies? How about William Hurt (yeah, even including Altered States). You know Glenn Close? She's been pretty much consistently awesome for the last thirty years. Jeff Goldblum? Yeah, he's a little weird, but also totally great. Tom Berenger's a little worse for the wear these days, but pretty much badass. Mary Kay Place, JoBeth Williams, and Meg Tilly: If you don't know them already, you will because you're going to go out and watch this movie.
The 1980s was a big decade for Baby Boomers. They were hitting their real lives, careers, families, marriage, and leaving the carefree times of the 1960s and 70s behind them in favor of Reaganomics and general conservatism, contrasting with their college-age ideals and rebellious attitudes. The Big Chill tackles these issues head on with drama, comedy, friendship, life, and death. It is fantastic, and I'm not even biased or anything.
Better get used to shots like this. The ensemble cast spends the majority of the film in groups of three or more. This means that immense Oscar talent shares our focus frequently, and we don't mind one bit. The story unfolds as Sarah and Harold Cooper get a phone call with terrible news: Their friend Alex has committed suicide as he was staying in one of their properties. Their circle of friends gather around Alex's funeral, reunited after several years. In the following weekend, they clash in differences in opinion on life in general, and it seems that very few of them are satisfied in the lives they ended up with. Harold (Kline) is a business owner, with almost 30 stores and large corporation expressing interest. Sarah (Close) is a physician with a history with Alex. Sam (Berenger) is a Hollywood actor on a Magnum, PI-like show, and he's recently divorced. Meg (Place) is a single lawyer who's hearing her biological clock ticking louder and louder, and is looking at her men friends to conceive a baby. Michael (Goldblum) is a reporter for People magazine and a hopeless womanizer, with several half-started novels. Nick (Hurt) used to be a radio psychiatrist (like Frasier, only less sitcom-y), but after an existential crisis and his 'Nam injury (not to mention impotence), lost direction and became a drug dealer and recreational user. Karen (Williams) is seemingly happily married with children, but we get the sense that she's dissatisfied with her conservative marriage, and harbors romantic feelings towards Sam. Chloe (Tilly) was Alex's (an uncredited/unseen Kevin Costner, believe it or not) girlfriend at the time of his death, and she seems to primarily exist as a fleeting last connection to Alex, as well as a representative of the next generation (I assume Generation X). Luckily, since it took so long to describe what took so long to explain who the characters are and their relationship, it's a good thing that the plot isn't very complex. Basically, these friends hang around Sarah and Harold's house all weekend, reconnecting, arguing, having sex, doing drugs, and trying to hold on to Alex.
Very few movies can pull of this kind of plot idea with any success. To most audiences, it seems like nothing really happens. Which is kind of true, in the literal sense. It's a human drama, with all the comedy that comes with it. Kasdan wrote the script with Barbara Benedek, and it's only enhanced by the close friendships evident between the actors themselves (bit of trivia: they all lived together for awhile before filming, to make it more realistic that they were close friends). There are also several deleted scenes (which I should check out), flashbacks of their time in college with Kevin Costner as Alex, but were cut in favor of the strong performances of the actors themselves in remembering him. The characters are based on real people that Kasdan knew when he was living in a co-op while attending the University of Michigan (the school the characters attended together).
The most surprising thing is that I haven't actually seen this movie before. It's right up my alley, and has a bunch of great actors giving stellar performances. It has the kind of stark, depressed humour that I enjoy, and a lot of great, dead-pan serious lines that are actually hilarious, especially at the serious reactions of the other characters. There's no real plot twists; the only thing even close is the revelation that Alex and Sarah had an affair, and his death is affecting her more than the others. Oh, also, Meg talks with Sarah about her desire to have a baby, and as a way to help her out, and also "equalize" or absolve her guilt over her affair with Alex, Harold ends up hopefully impregnating her (we never actually anything beyond the weekend, so we don't know if it worked or not).
This movie should really be on everyone's top ten (or at least top twenty) list. It's pretty disappointing that it didn't win any Academy Awards, but it was nominated for three, and did win several other awards (including the Writer's Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen). It has a fantastic soundtrack of 1960s music, and it caused something of a resurgence in interest in Motown and 60s music in general (and it's just plain awesome to listen to).
I've heard that they're going to do a remake, which I have mixed feelings about. I doubt that the general sense and themes won't make any sense for this current generation (unless we use actors from the same generation?). Basically, Generation X doesn't really have the same types of issues that the baby boomers did, so it's going to be kind of weird (especially if they try to make it seem like it's still set in '83, where we have actors pretending to be friends and pretending to be from a generation that they're not really a part of). Anyway. This movie still rules, and I just hope they don't ruin it with a remade version.
I give this film four and a half crying, naked, and showering Glenn Close-s out of five, or four and a half lecherous Jeff Goldblums out of five.