The Big Chill

Movie Review #859: ‘The Big Chill’ is remembered for its soundtrack, and indeed it is far better heard than seen.

By Alexander Diminiano

Comedy, Drama
Rated R (contains mature themes, drug use, sexual content, profanity)
105 minutes

Editor’s Note: This will be the last review before a twelve-day hiatus.  I will return on the 25th of August with reviews as usual, except the schedule will be different.  Red’s reviews will be posted Tuesdays at 1:00 PM, and mine will be posted Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at 1:00 PM.  There will be no new reviews on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Kevin Kline. Glenn Close. Tom Berenger. Mary Kay Place. Jeff Goldblum. William Hurt. JoBeth Williams. Meg Tilly. These are all talented actors and actresses, and they play their characters likably in “The Big Chill”. They’ve gathered into a single house to reunite after the death of their friend, Alex. Actually, he committed suicide, and his death isn’t mourned; instead, it becomes the butt of every joke among them. It’s not until the end of the movie that these thirtysomethings realize that, despite resurrecting the unity they haven’t shared since college, they’re missing someone in their little group.

“The Big Chill” is what you’d call a “dramedy,” and often its comic rhythm gets tangled with its dramatic rhythm. It’s a depressing movie that tries to make room for laughs at awkward times. Half the time it’s funny. Half the time we can’t even try to laugh. I’d have to say that the movie simply struggles with its writing in general. The character development is hardly existent for this group of college friends, and we’re not even given a formal introduction to the recently deceased Alex. It feels strange to hear them all keep mentioning him.

This isn’t the kind of movie Lawrence Kasdan should be writing or directing. Those who don’t recognize his name, per se, surely recognize his work with filmmaker George Lucas, which accounted for most every step he’d taken in the movie industry until grabbing pen and camera for “The Big Chill”. “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and “Return of the Jedi” – Lawrence Kasdan wrote those, and all three can be considered his masterpieces. Certainly not “The Big Chill”.

I will compliment “The Big Chill” for its soundtrack. It’s pretty hard not to. The music here is mostly soul and blues from the ’60s. Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Three Dog Night, Aretha Franklin, Procol Harum, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Beach Boys, and The Band. And more. Though the soundtrack is a whole separate entity than the movie, because it totally outdoes the movie. Many remember “The Big Chill” for only its soundtrack, and indeed, it is far better heard than seen.


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