The Big Chill
Sometimes when I look at a person older than me, I imagine what they looked like and were like when they were my age or younger. It’s easy to see that most of the time. What you don’t see is the time when they were younger, whether they wore bell bottoms or had really long hair that wouldn’t suit them at their current age.
That’s what I felt watching this. These are adults in their thirties raising children, smoking in their corner office (I wish I could still legally do that), going to each other’s funerals. There was no way anyone could have convinced me that this shoulder pad wearing group of old college friends, united by their fried Alex’s suicide – none of whom wore black by the way, have been hippies or activists. They neither show each other old pictures of play the Hair soundtrack. Karen’s husband Richard tells her that he can’t believe that they’re the same people she described.
And they have an angst towards realizing that they’ve changed in fifteen years, like sleeping for that long and waking up in a different life. Robert Osborne, while introducing the movie, talked about the chagrin that the characters felt. It fits but it’s too strong of a word for me. I would have used something around remorse and reflection. There’s something beautiful about Sarah (Glenn Close) and her husband Harold (Kevin Kline) talking about their past. Both actors do great work in not yelling. The only explosive emotion from either of them comes when Sarah looks unrecognizable, crying in the bath.
In the end, everyone gets to spend a night with a different partner either in a platonic way. Chloe (Meg Tilly, with a surrealist spin to her airhead character) gives Nick (William ‘Broheim’ Hurt) Alex’s jacket, which finally gives Chloe a chance for an emotional release. Sarah and Michael (Jeff Goldblum, RIP) sit in front of a camcorder and joke around. Or they consummate (two married people have sex with people they’re not married to). The Motown music, used throughout the movie, tries to convince me that everything including the sex is all right with these grownups, but doesn’t. If I as much think of having sex within 72 hours of burying someone, I’d be called a slut.
Nick worries me, though. He’s a Vietnam vet, shows up late at his friend Alex’s funeral, then gets cited by the police for bad driving. He’s the only one who’s calm when everyone else is going passive aggressive at each other’s throats. He remembers what Alex would say in that hostile situation with a quiet sadness. Alex’s girlfriend Chloe tells him that Nick reminds her of Alex. Nick decides to stay in a platonic relationship with Chloe and work the property that Chloe and Alex have owned. By we’re still talking about drug using Nick here. It’s either he’s gonna cause everyone pain by really following Alex’s footsteps or have a difficult time changing.
Also, the movie has a subtle pastel cinematography that reminded me of “Ordinary People.” It’s also pretty shadowy when Nick and Chloe and in the same room for some reason.