The Big Chill

1983, Movie, R, 103 mins


THE BIG CHILL is a glib, seriocomic look at a 1980s reunion of a group of old college friends who were radicals during the 1960s, and how their lives have changed since that time. Strong acting and a string of classic rock and soul tunes make up for a superficial script.

A group of former college friends are reunited for a funeral after learning of the suicide of another friend who had been staying at the house of running shoe mogul Harold (Kevin Kline) and his physician wife Sarah (Glenn Close). After the funeral, the group gathers at Harold and Sarah's house for the weekend. As the friends get reacquainted while eating, drinking, flirting, getting stoned and dancing, corporate attorney Meg (Mary Kay Place) announces that she wants to have a baby and begins asking the men in the house if they will do the honors. Sarah encourages Harold to sleep with Meg, and he does so. In the meantime, suburban housewife Karen (JoBeth Williams) pursues TV star Sam (Tom Berenger), whom she's had a crush on since college, and magazine writer Michael (Jeff Goldblum) tries to exploit the whole weekend into an article about the "lost hope" of the '60s generation.

THE BIG CHILL is the ultimate 1980s baby-boomer movie, presenting the definitive portrayal of the emerging yuppie archetype and all its traits: from running shoes, jogging, camcorders, and Motown, to baby-fever, self-analytical narcissism, and guilt-ridden upwardly mobile lifestyles. It is consistently entertaining and wonderfully acted, yet is finally undone by its refusal to deal honestly with the serious issues it raises; director/co-writer Lawrence Kasdan chooses instead to end virtually every scene with a cheap punchline. In the final analysis, the film doesn't amount to much, except to provide a good opportunity for the fine ensemble cast to show off their talents. One interesting cast note is that the character of Alex, who is never seen alive, but whose corpse is shown under the opening credits as it's being dressed for the funeral, was played by a then unknown Kevin Costner. leave a comment --Michael Scheinfeld

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