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There was something about this movie which I couldn't place my finger on.
Although I barely made the 60's, of which all the characters are
of and therefore perhaps I maybe missed some subtle messages or didn't get
some in-jokes about the 60's, this movie still applies to everyone. I
guarantee every generation will have a time where they come back after 10
15 years and see friends that had been so important but are now barely on
the radar. They will have a weekend of drinking and tears and fights and
laughter. You will look at someone and remember a deep, hidden passion
them that you felt so long ago and never shared with anyone.
That is of course, the plot of the movie.
7 friends (who go wayyy back) one husband (who disappears pretty quickly) and a widowed girlfriend (who is barely known by anyone) come together after they learn that Alex, a friend formally part of the clique, had committed suicide (this part was infamously played by Kevin Costner). They have a weekend of sex, drugs, and good ol' fashioned rock and roll, the whole time bringing up past ghosts that had seemed long forgotten and faded. This is touchy subject, even in today's standards. Yet the movie handles it beautifully. My favourite section in the whole movie was when `You can't always get what you want' was played at his funeral. Not for the song, although it is a classic but for how the characters react. Each sit there in the church, some smiling quietly to themselves, while others have a sadden expression, remembering great times that were and never will be again. Every person has a song like that, one that makes you remember your friends, one that makes you sad or laugh and or grin to yourself as you remember the things you did. That to me clinches the movie. It shows how true the script is, and how humanly the characters react. There is a lot of angry hype about the movie, how there is too much talking and not enough sex or car chases or whatever people think is missing. Yet for me, it is reality. When something like this happens in real life, people do not over dramatise. Life is not a soap opera, although movie-goers seemed to want this movie to be. In a real-life situation, people would do exactly what the characters did, examine themselves and try to find a reason for the problems that have happened. Yet the hard truth is, especially about suicide, sometimes, there is no one you can blame. I think people didn't like this movie too much because it rang too true. It was too realistic. People go the movies to be entertained, to fall in love with the fairy-tales lives that movies have. This movie is honest. It seems, for now, people just want to be naïve and live in a fantasy world. If you want a true movie, see this one now.
After reading several of the user comments on this movie, it is clear that
many people missed quite a bit. Those "funny one-liners" (and there are
plenty!) are much more than that: they tell us volumes about the
This movie certainly does not spell anything out to the viewer (except,
perhaps, the obvious), so you must be able to find the meaning behind the
words. If you listen to what the characters are saying, then you can
understand their past relationships, their present feelings, which friends
have stayed close, etc. Remember, these are old friends: the script is
realistic so the characters are not going to explain every line to one
another. I believe to truly enjoy this movie you need to pay close
attention to all of the details and understand a bit about the attitudes
ideals of the two eras the movie depicts.
Wonderful, intelligent movie!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1983 the Yuppie era was its rise: people became more and more focused and obsessed with being successful and making money. These are the same people who once protested in the 1960s and were once against conformity and dreamed sweet ideals of they wanted in life. The Big Chill is a film that mourns the hippie era and it is also the beginnings and the rise of the yuppie era. The film tells the story of a group of college friends from the late sixties who are reunited at the funeral of a best friend named Alex (the role of the stiff was Kevin Costner until his scenes were taken out of the film) who committed suicide. The friends had all lost touch on and off in the years with the exception of Alex. They have all found their successes in life: Sarah (played by Glenn Close) is a doctor and she once had an affair with Alex. Harold (Kevin Kline) is a businessman and married to Sarah and very secure with the direction his life took. Michael (Jeff Goldblum) is a journalist and investing on starting a nightclub. Sam (Tom Berenger) is a popular TV star in a Magnum PI-ish television show and has always been attracted to Karen (JoBeth Williams) who had once aspired to become a writer until she married a rich man and settled as a country club housewife. Then there is Nick (William Hurt) a former Vietnam vet who chose to become a drug dealer rather than pursue his doctorate in psychology. Meg (Mary Kay Place) is a successful lawyer who has decided that she wants to have a baby. And finally entering their circle is Alex's spaced out and naive-like girlfriend Chloe (Meg Tilly). All meet in the wake of his dead and they all spend the weekend together evaluating their lives and why their dear friend Alex died. We begin to know each of the characters through subtle scenes and dialogue without flashbacks or even any explanations. We begin to see why Alex died and it was not because he lost touch with his friends and because he was lonely, but because of the direction that his life took. It turns out that Alex was brilliant and was offered a fellowship to study as a physicists in a prestigious institution but chose to become a social worker. Each of his friends begin to questions the choices they had made and begin to wonder if they made the right choice. Excellent writing and terrific performances from the actors. Touching, funny, sad, and poignant film Lawrence Kasdan style.
"The Big Chill" is about my peers. When first released in 1983, I, like the
characters, was in my early thirties, a former rebellious collegian from the
'60s. After a decade in the work-a-day world, being a family man and raising
babies, watching "The Big Chill" was like a fantastic time machine and took
me back to places long forgotten. It really connected with me on a visceral
level and I loved it.
Now, almost twenty years later, I've watched "The Big Chill" again. Same effect? Not exactly, although a lot of this may be due to the effect of viewing any movie a second time. My views of the 60s are not so gilded as they were then either. "The Big Chill" is still a very good movie; you have to love it for the ensemble acting. So many of the actors in the movie went on to have respected careers in the 80s and 90s. It's one of those rare movies like "American Graffiti" and "Diner" that served as a launch pad for acting careers. And the soundtrack is perfect, capturing the breadth of late '60s pop music. I really wish Kasdan had done with these characters, what Updike did with his "Rabbit" novels, that is, show the characters at ten year intervals through their lives.
This is one of the better movies of this type and is highly recommended even for the gen-x'ers.
While channel surfing, saw this movie again tonight, for about the 35th time. What makes this movie great is not the story - hell, there is no story really - but the making of the movie itself. It is the single best combination of acting, film editing, sound track, dialogue, and every other thing that goes into a movie, ever put together. No special effects, no car chases, no suspense, no anything that usaually passes for entertainment. Just excellent film making. Even tonight, I saw yet one more background detail I never noticed before. You have to watch this movie multiple times to appreciate it. Nearly everything that happens early in the movie relates to something that occurs later on. The transitions and foreshadowing, the character relationships, the very words themselves all fit together like no other film ever made. I truly believe that this is a film that should be studied as an example of pure movie making, no less than Citizen Kane. To rate this movie as a 10 is to underrate it. Of course, that is just my opinion.
As a member of Gen-X having just revisited this movie after several
years, I have to say that the soundtrack took me down "memory lane" in
a big way, and may be one of the best things about The Big Chill. My
generation's experience with this music is very different than that of
my parents', having been force-fed Three Dog Night, The Band, and all
the rest as a young child. It remains a part of my psyche, buried deep
in the most obscure and remote of my memories. It was fantastic to hear
those songs again, in spite of how much my taste in music has changed
over the years. A classic is a classic, and the soundtrack is LOADED
with them. Music can make or break a movie, and in The Big Chill, the
music is an integral part of the film, as important as the cast, the
writing and the directing. Its hard to imagine different music, just as
it's hard to imagine a different cast. The songs weave in and out of
the movie as easily and naturally as the subplots weave in and out of
22 years after being dragged to this movie by my parents (who LOVED it), I remain pleasantly surprised at what a good movie it is as a whole, and how much more I liked it as an adult. The acting is brilliant. The writing is excellent. The directing is fantastic. Everything snaps into place in ways that keep you from getting bored, irritated, or otherwise turned off. Sometimes melodramatic, sometimes hilarious, the characters are well-constructed by the writer(s) and beautifully brought to life by the cast. Two hours fly by without dragging, down time, misfires or backfires. The story unfolds in 1983 with a crew of Baby Boomers, college friends brought back together by tragedy, taking stock in their lives as they get reacquainted with each other after many years have passed. The story may be dated, but anyone, no matter their "generation," can find something to relate to in this film. The interpersonal relationships, the individual journeys, and the self-reckoning that comes with the death of a friend... all of us can grasp these concepts and drink them in, get lost in them, feel the pain, and feel the joy. We can relate to it because its themes are timeless... love, loss, sadness, joy, growing up and getting older. This happens to us all.
My only real criticism of this picture would be that once in a while the film was a little too poignant and too depressing for my tastes, but only for brief moments. It could be that no one else who sees this film will agree with me, or even notice. That's fine. Opinions...we all have them. For me, it went a little overboard, just a smidgen. This is the only reason I did not give this movie a 10. It is still a wonderful movie. Some might suggest that this "going overboard" was what made the movie effective. It was effective, very much so, but for me it was a bit too much from time to time. Once in a while, my heart strings need a rest.
However, the music remains the most memorable part of the film. I had to look The Big Chill up on the internet to be reminded of the general story line, but the music has stayed with me all these years, and will remain with me, from the first notes of Joy to the World through the rest of the soundtrack and back. I would watch this movie again, and recommend it to anyone, no matter how cynical they are or what generation they belong to. Its that good.
It took a little while for me to really get into the film, but in the end, I was hooked. Once I got to know a little about each of the characters, I found it hard not to care about each and every one of them. Yes, it was dialogue-heavy, but once I liked the people on-screen, the conversations became rather engrossing. Even if lots of talking doesn't sound too appealing, I still think you should give it a look, because it isn't too often that a film has a cast that is so hugely talented. And of course, this film has one of the greatest soundtracks in movie history, and these songs seem to fit the mood perfectly. I had high expectations for this film, and although it wasn't quite what I had expected, this film did not disappoint.
1983's THE BIG CHILL is one of those beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted films that is so ingratiating that I can watch it over and over and never tire of it. Director Lawrence Kasdan hits the bullseye in this alternately hilarious and moving variation on the earlier RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN. This film follows the reunion of a group of friends who went to college together, who have gathered for the funeral of their mutual friend, Alex, who has committed suicide. The original screenplay included scenes with Alex, who was played by Kevin Costner, but, in a stroke of genius, it was decide to delete all of the Alex scenes in the film, lending a wonderful air of mystery to the character of Alex and allowing the audience more input as to why Alex decided to end his life. Alex's friends are Harold Cooper (Kevin Kline), who now owns a shoe store franchise and his doctor-wife, Sarah (Glenn Close), who also serve as our hosts ; Michael (Jeff Goldblum), a writer for PEOPLE magazine; Meg (Mary Kay Place)an attorney who wants to have a baby; Sam (Tom Berenger) an actor with his own TV show who misses the simple life; Karen (JoBeth Williams), a restless housewife who would really like to be a writer and Nick (William Hurt) a drug dealer who would like to be anything else. Also thrown into the mix is Chloe (Meg Tilly) Alex's girlfriend, who knows a completely different Alex than his friends do. This gathering of old and new friends sets the stage for some long-dormant resentments to bubble to the surface and for some long buried passions to be re-ignited. Kasdan has a sharp directorial eye and a flawless ear for dialogue with one of the most quotable screenplays ever and it is all set to a soundtrack of the greatest music from the 1960's ever compiled for a movie soundtrack. The cast is perfection...Close received a Best Supporting Actress nomination but the entire cast works at the same level and to honor one without honoring the ensemble wouldn't have been right. This is the ultimate ensemble piece and it works just about perfectly. Anyway you slice it, an instant classic.
"The Big Chill" is often regarded as the best Hollywood movie to demonstrate
ensemble acting. A problem that can affect similar films is the unequal
division of time that each character receives, but "The Big Chill" avoids
this problem. It certainly is a moving cinematic experience that isn't
easily forgotten. OK it doesn't really lead anywhere, but as it goes on, the
nostalgic charm sets in and the core isn't hollow.
Terrific performances from the ensemble cast who work well as a group. It's ironic how Kevin Costner had the most successful career yet if you blink you'll miss him. Some of the careers of the talented cast bloomed after this- Kevin Kline won an Oscar for "A Fish Called Wanda", Glenn Close got 5 nominations (this film included) and got a status in Hollywood, Jeff Goldblum got success in the likes of "Jurassic Park" and "Independence Day". Others didn't- Meg Tilly sort of disappeared, JoBeth Williams went on to flops such as Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, Mary Kay Place had small parts in Girl Interupted and Being John Malkovich but went by un-noticed.
"The Big Chill" is a complex and often brilliant story of the need for companionship. The soundtrack greatly adds to the nostalgic and uplifting feel to the movie. Great performances, splendid direction and an engaging script make this a deserved (if not slightly dated) classic. My IMDb rating: 8.0/10.
This has been my favorite movie since it came out because it is,
ostensibly, about ME. I'm from Michigan, and while I didn't go to UM, I
went to a state school in Michigan in the early seventies, and this was
This movie has both *everyone* I ever knew in it, and all the best actors of the time. Who wouldn't love Tom Berenger, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, and Kevin Costner, especially when they play everyone you knew in college. This film helps define who I am and who I became. When I clean the kitchen table, I hear "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" in my head. I dance around the kitchen, using a plate as a tambourine, and I'm lost in the past for a few minutes.
I love this film.
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