The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan, 1983)

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I recently discovered a music blog that made some waves, My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection, which is on Tumblr. It’s a blog made by a librarian who reviews all of her husband’s 1500 records in alphabetical order. I recommend you check the blog because it’s written in a natural way and it’s pretty funny. Recently she discussed the soundtrack from the Lawrence Kasdan’s film, The Big Chill, his follow-up to the pure neo-noir cinematic bliss that is Body Heat.

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I’ve known the film for a while and her review put in a mood to check out the film. It’s an interesting and relatable story for all sociable people who’ve had strong friendships. Since I am 22 years and obviously not the same age as these characters, I don’t share all the feelings of these people. At least not yet. But it stroke a chord. I can say I almost had the big chill through my spine.
The Big Chill is a film about a group of old college friends reuniting after one of their friends commits suicide. It’s an ensemble cast that works really well and from the very beginning you sense these characters are genuine and feel a connection with them. At least that’s how I felt. This idea of old friends reuniting is used in many films which I guess are best served when you’re the same age with the characters presented. It was nice to see all these actors like Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum (who still looks the same), Glenn Close and William Hurt in their early years. I feel a bit nostalgic of that period even though I wasn’t even existing at the time. There’s that feeling most of us have that it was better in the past.

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The characters share the same affinity to the past as I do. At one point Glenn Close says that it was in college with her friends when she was at her best. This film touched me in many ways, I like the idea of thinking of the past, knowing that those times will always keep you connected to a group of people. That is comforting. I am bound to feel the same way because I also have a group of friends that I kept close, even much earlier than college, from my early school years to be specific. I feel the same way as these characters feel about each other, they love each other and I feel the same way about my friends. I am sure this is why I got the chills through my spine.
As I said before, The Big Chill is relatable. That’s one of its strengths because it gives us a feeling so many people share and I enjoy that. I am sure that after finishing college, life will get in the way and I won’t see my friends just as much, that’s already happening.  I am remembering now the song All My Friends by LCD Soundsysytem which expresses the same message. I listened to the song today long before I even considered watching The Big Chill, so I guess that was a sign.

Now actually talking about the film, it’s pretty well made. The opening shows how every one responds to the death of their friend with Heard It Through The Gravepine by Marvin Gaye as a musical companion. We don’t get a lot of background of these people and we don’t need to. Also, the unpacking montage presents them in the best way and without getting too much into it.

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Another strength of the film is the character dynamics. The actors portray their friendship so naturally, you feel they have this strong bond. I know the actors lived in the same house weeks before the shooting to make them get to that emotional connection. The ensemble is a group of very talented actors, some which I’ve seen in other films and some which I’m meeting for the first time. The fact that many of us identify with being in a group like this is probably why we get so drawn into their story so fast. Apart from Meg Tilly’s performance, all the actors did a wonderful job in personifying these complex characters. She is the one we don’t know nothing about. Her character felt like an intruder and it bothered me that she was intentionally weird without any explanation. Glenn Close got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role. She is good, like always, but I don’t really see the appeal, it must have been a weak year in supporting roles for women to choose this performance. I also found her nude scene unnecessary.

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The soundtrack was used to evoke the music this group of friends listened to in their college years in the 60’s. This is a great line-up of songs but some didn’t feel like enriching the scenes where they were used. It’d say it was more overkill.

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I don’t have many complaints about The Big Chill. I wish they went more for the nostalgia feel rather than the unfinished-business love affairs. There is a certain part at the end that almost ruined the film for me involving Kevin Kline and Mary Kay Place’s characters. Those who’ve seen the film will known what I’m referring to.
And the ending was so sudden and almost sitcom like. I guess I’m more drawn to the idea of time passing and people growing apart but still loving each other despite the distance and life getting in the way than the drama between the men and women. I felt like the director went the easier way by dealing more with romance rather than contemplation. I’m not asking for a Bergman film, but I think this theme is broad enough and it deserved much more time spent on it.

If you ever get a chance to see The Big Chill, don’t miss it. It’s got a timeless message and if you had or have a similar group of friends, this film will make a connection with you. It’s also worth for the wonderful cast that of talented performers who breathe life into these complex and real characters.

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