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Chillin’ Like a Villain

Finally, here’s a movie that depicts the real world with puffy clouds, cuddly bunnies, and fields of daisies. Psych!

The movie defines “the big chill” as one’s transition into the cold and real world. That’s right, college dudes and dudettes. It’s like march of the penguins come graduation time. Some will make it. Some will freeze.

The movie begins with a “frozen” victim named Alex. He hasn’t found himself after college and has committed suicide. His funeral reunites seven of his close friends from college. All are in their 30s and have their own problems in the usual annals of love, money, and job. Surprisingly, “The Big Chill” is not a dour film as one would expect. If it has to be categorized, I’d label it as a comedy due the screenplay’s humorous tone despite the sad set-up. Consider the following dialogue (courtesy of IMDB.com):

Sam: Do you think we’re all trying to avoid dealing with Alex? You know, very time it comes up somebody changes the subject.
Nick: Hey. It’s a dead subject.

There is chockfull of amusing banter like this, but there’s a subtle drama about the way they dodge the “dead” subject. Maybe the movie suggests that a sense of humor is one way to cope with the chilly reality.

The movie’s individual stories are mediocre. Maybe it seems fresh at the time but these tales are stale by today’s’ standards. The best scenes are when the ensemble is together. A larger truth seems to come out in their discussions. At one point, a character says “I feel I was at my best when I was with you people.” It’s ironic that for these people they have fewer grips on reality with more experience on life.

I also love that the screenplay writes a palpable chemistry among the group. You can believe these are people who have grown to be comfortable with each other. There’s a sense of love and respect. They know how to gauge each other. They can be open and frank, without being so hurtful. Credit must go to the fine cast that includes Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, and the recently nominated William Hurt (“A History of Violence”). Although I lack the 1980s nostalgia, I think the movie’s a fairly good find. It’s just funny though how the word “chill” has thawed out to have a more relaxed meaning. Hence, I’m left with a strangely worded advice: Chill when the “big chill” comes.

Grade: A-

Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth WilliamsScreenplay by
Lawrence Kasdan and Barbara Benedek

Directed by
Lawrence Kasdan

Rated R