are certain films that capture the zeitgeist of an era, and The Big Chill is definitely one of them.
If a movie like, say, Annie Hall,
hits the nail on the head of urban relationships in the late 70s, then Chill embraces the Baby Boomers’ angst
of adulthood in the early 80s—a time when the partying and discoing Carter
years were undoubtedly over and we, in the USA, were solidly entrenched in
Reagan’s world of hippies-turned-yuppies. The
Big Chill is a love letter to the Baby Boomers, as it explores themes of
regret over wasted opportunities, friendship and camaraderie, nostalgia, and the
eternal question of what-happens-next.
and co-writer Kasdan, in a recent video interview (included as an extra on the
disk), states that one of his influences for the picture was Jean Renoir’s 1939
classic, The Rules of the Game, which
also dealt with an ensemble of characters coming together for a reunion at a
country house. While the former film is bigger, more populated, and infinitely
more complex than The Big Chill, one
can definitely see the similarities. So-and-so has a history with whozit, but
whozit is now married to you-know-who; whereas, you-know-who is really in love
with so-and-so... and, well, you get the idea.
The Big Chill, a group of close-knit
friends from college reunite for the funeral of one of their own. Alex (who was played by Kevin Costner in
flashback sequences that were ultimately edited out of the picture), was
staying in Harold (Kevin Kline) and Sarah’s (Glenn Close) country home in South
Carolina and committed suicide there. Alex apparently had an affair with Sarah
(who is married to Harold). Vietnam vet and druggie Nick (William Hurt) once
had a thing with hot-stuff but now-married Karen (JoBeth Williams), but Karen
was really in love with hunky, now-TV-star Sam (Tom Berenger). Nerdy-and-socially-inept
Michael (Jeff Goldblum) and smart-but-bitter Meg (Mary Kay Place) got it on in
the past, but today Meg just wants to have a baby as a single mom and Michael
is just, well, horny. But really, none of these histories make much difference
on the story or unfolding of events during the weekend at the house. Over the
course of the film’s 105 minutes, the characters laugh, fight, dance, expound
philosophy, laugh some more, reflect on their lives, have sex (some of them
do), and bond again with their “family.” Anyone who has gone to college can
most likely relate.
Kevin Kline and Glenn Close
intelligent script by Kasdan and Barbara Benedek was nominated for an Original
Screenplay Oscar, and the film was nominated for Best Picture of ’83. Oddly,
Glenn Close received the only acting nomination (Supporting Actress), whereas
Goldblum, Place, and especially Hurt probably deserved nods as well (Goldblum
certainly has the best lines!).
there’s the soundtrack, which is the ultimate Baby Boomer collection of rock
and soul gems from the late 60s and early 70s—the period in which the
characters were in college in Michigan. Isn’t it true that our favorite music
is still what we heard in high school
and college? In this case, there’s a lot of Motown, sprinkled with some Rolling
Stones, Three Dog Night, Procol Harum, and other iconic pieces from the era.
The music is as much a part of the film as is the characters. Perhaps it is a character.
new, restored 4K digital film transfer, supervised by DP John Bailey and
approved by Kasdan, looks terrific on Blu-ray. There’s an alternate remastered
5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray disc.
Extras include the aforementioned interview with Kasdan, a reunion roundtable
discussion with the cast and some crew in 2013 (it’s interesting to note that
none of the women in the cast bought into the plotline in which Sarah lets her
husband Harold sleep with Meg as a favor), a documentary from 1998 on the
making of the picture, deleted scenes (unfortunately, though, none with Costner),
and the usual excellent essays in the enclosed booklet (one by Lena Dunham).
you’ve never seen The Big Chill,
now’s the time to do it. And if you have, maybe it’s time for a reunion with