The Big Chill (1983)

(On Cable TV, April 2017) It’s interesting to read that writer/director Lawrence Kasdan interprets the meaning of The Big Chill as the disillusionment that hits thirtysomethings once they trade young ideals for practical realities. Watching the movie, I was most struck by the way is comfortingly presents a small group of friends spending a mostly relaxed time together—i.e.: chilling. But, hey, it’s his film, and a fascinating aspect of The Big Chill is how, nearly thirty-five years and two generations later, it remains intelligible as an expression of friendship, drama, love, lust, regret, grief and mid-thirties reflections. It remains engrossing despite having few laughs and even fewer thrills. Part of its enduring effectiveness has to do with the actors assembled for the occasion. These are early roles for notables such as Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline and Meg Tilly. (Pay attention, and you will even see Kevin Costner’s hairline.) The nearly all-hits soundtrack is also quite good. For a movie that wrestles complex relationships between no less than eight people (that’s 28 different relationships, if my math is OK), the story remains relatively clear at most times. Perhaps most surprising is how somewhat unusual things (hitting on your dead pal’s girlfriend at his funeral, a wife arranging for a friend’s natural insemination by her husband, insider trading, an adulterous affair while the husband’s away with the kids, etc.) are portrayed as being no big deals. The ending is weak, but there’s an upbeat wistfulness (if such an expression isn’t oxymoronic) that permeates the final moments of the film. The Big Chill couldn’t possibly have been more reflective of the late baby-boomer generation, yet it remains relevant today. And despite all the icky things in the movie, it still feels heartwarming and relaxed. Go figure.

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