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The Secaucus 7 of the film's title are seven friends who, during their college days, were arrested in New Jersey on their way to a protest in Washington. The film takes place ten years after all that, as the friends gather at the home of Mike and Katie, now schoolteachers in New Hampshire, bringing with them old problems and new: Maura has left Jeff and seeks consolation with his best friend, J.T.; J.T., arguably the least successful of the friends, finally gets the courage to move to Los Angeles to start a career as a songwriter; Irene brings her new boyfriend along, hoping he'll like and be liked by her friends and expecting them to challenge him for his more-conservative politics; and more. This is the film that inspired "The Big Chill." Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
Sayles' first film is, as one previously reviewer noted, the prototype independent film: small budget, previously unknown actors, an emphasis upon talk and ideas over action or even an event-oriented plot. The script varies from slow at times to very entertaining and incisive at others, but it always feels real. You don't necessarily feel you know the characters all that well when it's over, but you care about them nonetheless. It's all in all a very worthwhile film, in which you can see the director learning how to handle an ensemble cast, as he has done so effectively in recent years in Lone Star and Sunshine State. If you like this type of film at all, you will find it rewarding and quite worth your time.
It is amazing, though, how so many of the reviews attempt to not merely acknowledge the similarities to The Big Chill, but to elevate one film and denigrate the other. They come from very different places in terms of budget, stars and polish, but are both very fine films. In one sense, TBC is deeper in that the characters in that film have varied from their previous ideals (or at least it seems that way), a fact that lends a melancholy beneath the slickness that really isn't there in S7. However, a lot of people reach the age of the characters in S7 (they are all only about 30, younger than the characters in Chill) without yet having to really put things in perspective. The leads in S7 have become teachers, a predictable outcome. One other character has taken a job as an aide to a senator. J.T. is pursuing (or putting off pursuing) a musical career. The fact that this film views the characters before some of the inevitable conflicts in their lives have ripened actually makes it more subtle, and allows for the viewer to wonder where they will be in 5-10 years. Will the leads become Kevin Kline and Glenn Close? Will one of the characters die young and precipitate the life-examining session that occurs in Chill? I think the two films dovetail nicely together. To exalt one at the expense of the other is unnecessary and needlessly cynical.
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