The Big Chill-(1983)
Written and Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, The Bodyguard, Raiders of the Lost Arc)
Starring: Kevin Kline, Glen Close, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Kay Place, William Hurt, Meg Tilly, Tom Berenger, Jo Beth Williams.
The Big Chill cements my feelings about Lawrence Kasdan’s greatest strength as a writer his sentimentality. From the sweeping tragic romance of Empire Strikes Back, to the enduring sense of youthful adventure and discovery in Raiders of the Lost Arc, and his overwhelmingly nostalgic and idealistic western Silverado, Kasdan displays personal tender loving care for whatever project he injects his talents into. While all the movies I previously mentioned are driven by action set pieces inspired by the adventures of youth, The Big Chill revolves entirely around the action of feeling.
The plot is simple: a bunch of college friends get together after learning that one of their good friends has committed suicide. They gather for a weekend of reminiscing, drinking, pontificating, challenging and celebrating each other.
The resonance of this film comes from the very human feeling of growing up, growing with people, growing away from people. The connections of the friendships in this movie are iron clad, so much so that despite two characters potentially having a beef with each other there is a familiarity in their conversation that allows space for that tension, that frustration and the feelings that come up around friends who have known each other for a very long time. The acting is so competent and cohesive that I really would swear that Glenn Close and Kevin Kline’s characters had been together for nearly ten years, or that everyone’s dismissal of Jeff Goldblum’s character’s sleaze and shallow intentions is a learned behaviour adopted after years of knowing the guy. The dialogue and pacing has the clinical quality of a Woody Allen script but with far more humanity and less composition. Of course I would be remiss if I failed to mention the soundtrack to this film. The soundtrack is so large and filled with so many golden era Motown, R&B and rock and roll hits of the 60’s that to this day a complete Big Chill soundtrack has never been released. It is this music that fuels the abject loving sentimentality in Kasdan’s film. It is nostalgic for a time when these characters, and he himself, were doing the biggest part of their growing up. It is therefore symbolic that as they join each other in this weekend of laughter, grief, sex and friendship that the soundtrack of their more formative years ushers them into the next phase of their lives, together.
Great movie if you want to feel pretty good about life and your friends.