Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
DaveO

The Big Chill (1983) - Comedy-Drama Written and Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, Produced by Michael Shamberg

Recommended Posts

From the thread on Amadeus a reference to actress Meg Tilly reminded me of the Big Chill, first the film and additionally the soundtrack.

Both are favorites of mine.  They ring so close to experience and heart.  I lived some of that film w/ my friends; attended college during the same time period referenced in the film, engaged in some of the acts that those characters referenced, had reunions of that ilk with old college friends, even had reunions of that ilk around funerals as was the case in the film.

The movie won awards when it came out.  It was also an early film for an amazing array of actors that gained significant fame in theater and film over long careers, Meg Tilly being one of them.  In fact there have been cries for an adjusted Director's Cut that would have included Kevin Costner in the scenes he filmed.  (all of his scenes were cut from the original film and a new version has never been released).

The Soundtrack is an astonishing uplifting variety of songs from the 1960's from a host of artists, with a heavy emphasis on Motown.  From one who grew up on that music it is a very upbeat emotionally powerful reflection of the best of that decade.

I know my reactions to the film and the soundtrack are biased through my experiences.  So my question for the rest of you;  Is it a period piece or does it transcend the time and place of the film and serve to move you?  And for those of you from that time period, how do you feel about the film and/or the soundtrack?

Damn.  I listen to that soundtrack all the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the thread on Amadeus a reference to actress Meg Tilly reminded me of the Big Chill, first the film and additionally the soundtrack.

Both are favorites of mine.  They ring so close to experience and heart.  I lived some of that film w/ my friends; attended college during the same time period referenced in the film, engaged in some of the acts that those characters referenced, had reunions of that ilk with old college friends, even had reunions of that ilk around funerals as was the case in the film.

The movie won awards when it came out.  It was also an early film for an amazing array of actors that gained significant fame in theater and film over long careers, Meg Tilly being one of them.  In fact there have been cries for an adjusted Director's Cut that would have included Kevin Costner in the scenes he filmed.  (all of his scenes were cut from the original film and a new version has never been released).

The Soundtrack is an astonishing uplifting variety of songs from the 1960's from a host of artists, with a heavy emphasis on Motown.  From one who grew up on that music it is a very upbeat emotionally powerful reflection of the best of that decade.

I know my reactions to the film and the soundtrack are biased through my experiences.  So my question for the rest of you;  Is it a period piece or does it transcend the time and place of the film and serve to move you?  And for those of you from that time period, how do you feel about the film and/or the soundtrack?

Damn.  I listen to that soundtrack all the time.

Oh God.

You are Satan.

I've been hearing this since I first walked out of the movie theater in 1983.

If I find the energy, I will post my thoughts this week; I don't think I'm going to find the energy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh God.

You are Satan.

I've been hearing this since I first walked out of the movie theater in 1983.

If I find the energy, I will post my thoughts this week; I don't think I'm going to find the energy.

Satan???   That is harsh, isn't it?

I'm curious.  The Big Chill moved me as few films ever have.  I also thought it was a spectacular example of thoroughly and beautifully describing a time, place, and set of experiences and emotions that gripped a certain population of that time.  Extremely well done.

But I realize and described above that it is a period piece....and I was of that period.  Similarly the soundtrack captured the music and created an upbeat association with the film.  Very well done.

I'm simply curious how others, not of that period and those experiences, see the film.  Was it good, moving, or possibly trite or even worthless in your experiences?

The reference to Meg Tilly, who unfortunately was unable to participate in Amadeus sparked my memory of The Big Chill.  Meg Tilly did a wonderful job in The Big Chill, playing the person who was part of this group, but was clearly the outsider.  I thought she did an excellent job in portraying that role.

(Meanwhile Amadeus was a wonderful film, IMHO.  Too bad Meg Tilly didn't get an opportunity to be a part of such a fascinating film)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a friend from high school who is obsessed with this film. When we were in college, he had reunion parties that he named after himself and talked ad nauseam about how we were just like the characters in the movie. He pretty much ruined Big Chill for me, and not just because he made my best friend JoBeth Williams while I was Mary Kay Place.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a friend from high school who is obsessed with this film. When we were in college, he had reunion parties that he named after himself and talked ad nauseam about how we were just like the characters in the movie. He pretty much ruined Big Chill for me, and not just because he made my best friend JoBeth Williams while I was Mary Kay Place.

Would have ruined the movie for me too.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some have said this film is little more than a commercialized reinvention of Return of the Secaucus 7 by the generally brilliant John Sayles.  Paying up for a big time soundtrack no doubt goosed The Big Chill's popularity at the time.  Such extravagances were beyond the $30,000 budget available to Mr. Sayles.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some have said this film is little more than a commercialized reinvention of Return of the Secaucus 7 by the generally brilliant John Sayles.  Paying up for a big time soundtrack no doubt goosed the Big Chill's popularity at the time.  Such extravagences were beyond the $30,000 budget available to Mr. Sayles.

Great catch.  That too was representative of that era and time and experience of some.  It was terrific as I recall. I admittedly have forgotten about it, but loved it when it came out.  I'm going to watch Return again.  TX.

Here is an interestingly written comparison of the two films.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Satan???   That is harsh, isn't it?   

If you take it seriously, it's more than harsh - it's downright mental.

I would never imply you're the devil because we disagree on a film.

That said, I'm going to watch it again before making any serious comment.

I don't think my impression will change, but I haven't seen it since 1983.

And that is an interesting tidbit about The Return Of The Secaucus 7.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you take it seriously, it's more than harsh - it's downright mental.

I don't take it that seriously.  Meanwhile I know I'm seriously biased toward loving The Big Chill.  I wonder how others, for whom its not a personal statement, view it.  Meanwhile, I appreciate the reference to the Return of the Secaucas 7.  Again a film I thought was terrific, but again, its very close to home...too close.

That is a film I need to view again.  I forgot it, but it left a strong impression when I first viewed it because of the references to experiences I lived.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't take it that seriously.  Meanwhile I know I'm seriously biased toward loving The Big Chill.  I wonder how others, for whom its not a personal statement, view it.  Meanwhile, I appreciate the reference to the Return of the Secaucas 7.  Again a film I thought was terrific, but again, its very close to home...too close.

That is a film I need to view again.  I forgot it, but it left a strong impression when I first viewed it because of the references to experiences I lived.

I'm watching this film again today, for only the second time in my life (the first time was in 1983). While I still have 30 minutes to go, I dislike it for the same reasons I disliked it 31 years ago (and I swear to you I'm watching it with an open mind).

First and foremost, I said to myself last night, 'I bet that this is an original screenplay,' i.e., written directly for the movie as opposed to adapted from a book, and I was right. Why did I think this?

Every conversation I've ever had about The Big Chill has gone like this (and I'm not the one who starts the conversations):

"What do you think of The Big Chill?"

"I pretty much hate it."

"Why?!"

"Because it's about the most contrived film I've ever seen."

<drum roll ...>

"But, the music!"

And therein lies the primary - but not the only - reason I dislike it so strongly. It's all about "the music." This is a contrived motion picture, purposely set in Michigan so the Soundtrack could be primarily Motown (for those who don't know, the "Mo" in Motown stands for "Motor City," aka Detroit), and the money guys knew in advance of the movie that the Soundtrack was its primary raison d'ètre - it's contrived bullshit, set to Motown, with big-name stars (I assume they were all pretty big name back then) to flush ticket sales and record purchases from the general public. It is a mass product, and most certainly not an artistic endeavor.

The characters, aka "The Frat Pack," are unsympathetic, have shown negative growth over the years, haven't been true to their ideals, aren't very likable, and quite frankly, I don't care very much about them. The only person who sounds like he stuck with his ideals killed himself - although Meg Tilly is something of a breath of fresh air, and I'm happy she appeared to become close friends with William Hurt at the end. I really wanted them to be together (and I didn't remember that from the first viewing).

As for the music, it's nothing you couldn't have bought from a K-Tel "Motown Memories" album for $10.99 at the time - everything was 20 years old, and nothing was fresh or new. I'm sorry to sound so cynical, but this movie is largely industrial-grade crap, cleverly manipulated to tug at the heartstrings of aging yuppies.

If these people were the "radicals" they claim to have been, they wouldn't have been listening to Motown; they would have been listening to anything from Spirit, to Santana, to Iggy Pop. Even The Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix would have been more convincing than this confectionary ear candy embraced by the general populace. Hell, early Suzie Quatro (Ohio) and The Detroit Spinners (Michigan) would have been more appropriate.

I will finish it with an open mind, but I don't remember anything happening that is going to change my mind. I don't have a whole lot of empathy for sanitized, faux-idealistic radicals-turned-yuppies, and these people mean nothing to me.

The music *is* fine, but like I said, it's ubiquitous, and it was, even then.

Okay, so tell me why I'm wrong. :)

I don't really "hate" the movie, by the way, and I'm glad I'm watching it again; I just consider it a vehicle to extract money from the masses.

Is there a single person of color in this film?

DaveO, remember, the next time you think I might be criticizing something you write ... I praised Happy awhile back, and neither music nor the arts in general get any more cloying than that. (I don't actually like "Happy" - I was just in a good mood when I wrote that post.) So, if I can praise that, anybody can praise anything.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I need to go back and watch both The Big Chill and Return of the Secaucas 7.  I recall loving both films when they came out.  I've seen The Big Chill more than once but not for an incredibly long time.   Every time I hear the Soundtrack it brings a smile to my face.  Those were terrific choices and as I recall melded well with the scenes as they developed.   While the Big Chill added a significant number of Motown songs they were intermixed with other songs of that period and the earlier 60's.  As I recall the Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was one of the opening pieces, but was not part of the original soundtrack.

Return of the Secaucas 7 per the earlier referenced article was evidently one of the first of what are now well known as Indie films.

I have to watch the Big Chill.  Did the characters actually claim they were radicals?  I don't recall.  There is and was a big difference between "radicals" and student activists from that time period, at least in my mind.

After reading the above I had to think of the "radicals" I knew.  I considered them mostly a scary or PITA lot during that era as I recall.  Of incredible coincidence I just heard from somebody with whom I grew up after reaching out to this person.  He addressed our "shared topic" and referenced he was only in touch with two people from our little home town, including one of the few real "rads" that I knew.

I had grown up friendly w/ that "rad".  I saw him intermittently over a number of years including periods when he was practicing "whatever the hell radical stuff he was practicing".   I kept my distance back in those days from whatever he was doing though maintained a friendship to whatever level we could.

I'm going to try and find out about that "rad" and get in touch if I can.  I'd classify him as someone with whom one could question if he stayed true to his principles from that period. I just don't know.

.......and on a completely side note...Secaucas, NJ was and might still be a GREAT pizza town.

(edit--update)  I did a little research.  Not 100% sure about this.  My old friend, the "rad", might have become a business person, cofounded a company and subsequently sold it to a far far bigger company.  Not sure.

Who knows?  Maybe it was a socially benign company in keeping with his principles.   Maybe he got married and had kids and doing "rad" type stuff didn't pay the bills.  I just don't know.  I'm going to try and find out about him and possibly contact him.  We shared some fun times as kids growing up.  Even when I ran into him and he was doing his political stuff we were friendly even as I kept my distance from whatever the hell he was up to.   Whatever.  I wish him well.   )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While the Big Chill added a significant number of Motown songs they were intermixed with other songs of that period and the earlier 60's.  As I recall the Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was one of the opening pieces, but was not part of the original soundtrack.

This was first referenced when JoBeth Williams played it on the organ at the end of Alex's funeral as "one of his favorite songs."

Yes, it melds with the plot, but selecting a 60s song to match pretty much *any* situation is an easy thing to do, and that song was either selected to match this, or the screenplay was written to match the song.

I also didn't need to see Glenn Close's breasts, or people doing The Bump to The Temptations while they're clearing the table.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I caught up on the Big Chill.  I still love it.  The movie is now 30 years old, and basically 30 years removed from their get together.  Its over 40 years removed from when most of the characters were friends in college.  That is a lot of time.

Its the reunion and its dynamics that grabbed me.  Forget the references to that period when they were in college and were bonded in part by the travails of the War in Vietnam.  They bonded.  And they had this reunion and so many of the "old dynamics" came out.

I've experienced this a lot.  Its sweet, wistful, and during each get together it takes you out of the current period and somewhat reconnects you to an earlier period removed from current tensions, pressures; all of life at the present.  Your with people with whom you have a strong connection, powerful trust.   Its sweet;  its wistful.  Most of the time for most of the people its fantastic.

In retrospect I've had these "reunions" starting the New Years following our "group's" college graduation...stretching into our 60's and being the age of grandparents.  There was about a decade of 3 to 5 couples seeing one another fairly frequently with kids growing up and getting to know and like one another and long stretches w/out get togethers.

Last year in an afternoon gathering of 2 long established couples and myself with a "Chloe" like companion...we rendezvoused at the Barnes and Noble at the Baltimore Harbor.  One guy referenced that he took the call that told him one of our group had died about 11 years earlier at that Barnes and Noble.  I made that call.  His comment of course struck all of us.

So when the Big Chill opened with the reactions of various people responding to that call, it struck a very familiar chord.

In this review I was grabbed by how close the wistfulness and beauty of those get together are.  You lapse back into a style of talking and speaking similar to the way you were decades earlier.  There is enormous bonding.  Those old friends bring a different level of trust and good will that takes you out of current life.

Outside of my own experience I've occasionally witnessed this with two family members for decades as they have gotten together with their old college friends.  Those get togethers have nothing to do with the '60's anti war movement.   But the closeness of the connections are entirely similar.

I thought the movie did a splendid job of capturing the "reunion" context and the old bonds reconnecting after a decade or so. The reunions are like that.  It did a terrific job in mirroring those types of get togethers.

The music is still fooking amazing!!!!!!!!!

Now I've got to off to see Return of the Secaucas 7 and possibly About Alex which just came out.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Different era:  I once cruised 4th street in Modesto then had a "last cigarette ever" on the very real Paradise road where John Milner's car overturned.  Both while listening to Wolfman Jack on KGO.  I drove 400 miles from L. A. to do this and now, twenty six years later feel that it was worth it.  I have a great deal of respect for your love of The Big Chill; I have the same affection for American Graffiti which i have seen more than 30 times.  It is my Friday night date from high school.

Later I found out that American Graffiti wasn't filmed in Modesto, rather north of San Francisco.

The above is a true story including the Wolfman on KGO.  I should add that I had a lot of last cigarettes ever but this was the very real next to the last.  I lit up when my red eye landed at Dulles and felt so guilty that I never had another.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Different era:  I once cruised 4th street in Modesto then had a "last cigarette ever" on the very real Paradise road where John Milner's car overturned.  Both while listening to Wolfman Jack on KGO.  I drove 400 miles from L. A. to do this and now, twenty six years later feel that it was worth it.  I have a great deal of respect for your love of The Big Chill; I have the same affection for American Graffiti which i have seen more than 30 times.  It is my Friday night date from high school.

Later I found out that American Graffiti wasn't filmed in Modesto, rather north of San Francisco.

The above is a true story including the Wolfman on KGO.  I should add that I had a lot of last cigarettes ever but this was the very real next to the last.  I lit up when my red eye landed at Dulles and felt so guilty that I never had another.

I appreciate that.  I listened to the Wolfman.  Let's face it, Joe.  Late at night, you were in your room.  You probably didn't have access to a TV.  Maybe your parents figured you were doing homework or the lights were off and you were asleep.

Naahhhhhhhhh!   Put the Wolfman on.  Listen to his gravely voice connect you with the bigger outside world.  He was sort of our internet of the age.

American Graffiti.  Another terrific film.  Interestingly both those movies had a large list of actors in the early stages of their careers that went on to very significant film/theater/TV roles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...