R, 105 min.
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Barbara Benedek
Starring: Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, Jo Beth Williams, Don Galloway
“The Big Chill” was the movie that taught me that my parents were more than just my parents. I remember their reactions when they saw it in the theater. It spoke to them in a way I’d never noticed anything speaking to my parents before. The characters struck them. The events in the film meant something to them. Even the music was a powerful element for them.
I believe I sought this movie out earlier than I might have because I had to know what meant so much to my parents. I saw this movie about adults looking back at the people they once were and comparing them to the people they’d become. I suddenly realized that my parents had other beliefs about where their lives would be other than where they were as our parents. I realized they had ideals they might have compromised. I realized they were people with friends and life had changed those elements over the years.
Now, I’m at the age of the characters in this film, and I’ve gone through all those compromises and changes and events I’d never planned on, and I realize even more clearly how good this movie is in depicting the difficulties of the adult existence. I had a core group of friends that meant so much to me when I was younger, and staying in touch with them, keeping them an influencing element in my life just hasn’t happened in the way you imagine it will when those friendships are thriving. The movie has it right on the nose that no friendships you form in your adult life have that relaxed nature as those you formed when you were younger. It’s like life creates these games you must play in order to survive, preventing that genuine quality of the friendships of your youth.
Also, from a story telling and cinematic outlook, this movie is just as impressive as it was 30 years ago. I can’t think of another movie that so efficiently introduces it audience to an ensemble cast without reverting to generalized characters and characteristics. Everyone here is a whole and complete character that you know almost instantly with only a minimum amount of information. The pacing and editing in the opening moments of the film are just amazing in the way it delivers the information the audience needs, not only to understand the rising incident (the suicide of one of this group of close college friends) but also to understand the dynamics of the relationships involved here. Never do these people seem to be cut out of some sort of Hollywood caricature.
Much of the credit also goes to the casting. Everyone is just perfect. Jeff Goldblum’s journalist really strikes me as one of the best examples of this. He’s the one in the group who doesn’t quite fit. He’s the one who’s usually left out of things, mostly by his own doing. So many groups of friends have this guy. He often offends the others more than anyone else. But it’s nice to have him there. He allows the others to know their place by providing opportunities for the others to see their value and allows the others to find value where they don’t expect it in him. Goldblum’s strange demeanor allows him and the filmmakers to get this aspect of his character across instantly. He’s picked to sit with the deceased friend’s girlfriend who nobody knew at the funeral. He’s singled out in this task and forced to do what nobody else wants to; and Goldblum handles it as only Goldblum can, which serves the purpose of explaining exactly why his is this character that gets singled out. It’s rather wonderful and sublime casting.