The Big Chill ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

A group of mostly well-off college friends, children of the "idealistic '60s," reconvene for a funeral after one of their own commits suicide; everyone gets laid except Jeff Goldblum. I admit that a certain Baby Boomer exhaustion has caught up with me recently despite my unceasing adoration of much of the same culture that group (and certainly this film, via its soundtrack) tends to celebrate, and that's probably one reason this comes across to me as terribly shallow despite mostly great performances. I wouldn't have expected Tom Berenger to be the best part of a movie that contained Kevin Kline, William Hurt and the underrated Mary Kay Place, but here we are. I don't feel I know these people deep down, and the fatigue they share of being guilty about how privilege has led them right past their own convictions and into complacency seems sketched out rather than built on lived-in details. Plus it's a cliché. I'm reminded of the angry speech Holly Hunter gives to Hurt early in Broadcast News: great, you all lived on the fumes of patting yourselves on the back for Believing in Things for a decade and a half and now realize you're comfortably self-absorbed and you're part of the "system," not that you feel capable of doing anything about it, but at least you're upset about it, fooolks. Of course I know that Kasdan intends all this as at least somewhat ironic -- the gang gathered around collectively unable to fathom why someone would become a social worker instead of "fulfilling their promise," everyone joking around about the jolly time they had donating sperm and eating salad and doing coke while the body of their friend is still warm. But the film seems too married to its value as a fusion of nostalgia and malaise, both expressed as vaguely as possible, to seem real or particularly well-observed. In fact, it feels rather to me like someone of a different generation trying to guess their way through the emotional cycle of the ugly post-'60s wakeup call; or more generally, a college student botching an attempt to write about much older people. There are too many blank spaces here, and too many easy answers in those that are ultimately filled. A couple of good lines, though; I like a dark suicide joke.

The DVD copy Netflix sent me is the "15th anniversary edition" from 1998, meaning the disc itself is now older than the film was at the time. Meanwhile, at the time of filming all of the main actors were either younger than I am now or the exact same age give or take a year, which is currently making me want to lie down.

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