Seven members of a close-knit college group of friends are reunited fifteen years later after the eighth commits suicide. The funeral and reception lead to an extended weekend for all as they decide to spend time together pondering the recent events.
The Big Chill is actually remarkably similar to John Sayles’ 1980 effort, The Return Of The Secaucus Seven, an original, spot-on look at a group of 60s college friends and erstwhile radicals reunited for a weekend of reminiscences, revelations and regrets.
Sayles’ movie cost only $60,000, however, had no names attached to it, and so petered about the arthouse circuit, well regarded but little seen.
Lawrence Kasdan, coming off Body Heat, had more resources and promptly spun a box-office hit with his own story of a generation and a wonderful acting ensemble whose wage bill would be staggering to meet now (Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly and JoBeth Williams).
Goldblum is a hustling, cynical journalist, Hurt’s tragi-comic drugs dealer yo-yos on chemical All-Sorts, Place’s lawyer seeks a volunteer to impregnate her, Kline’s entrepreneur treats everyone to new trainers, Close’s earth mother doctor is subjected to everyone’s sob stories and Tilly’s much younger, aerobicising Merry Widow reminds them of their age. Meals, jogs, unexpected couplings and confessions in the kitchen provide hilariously interwoven vignettes of the group’s lifestyles and concerns, all to a wittily used soundtrack of Motown classics.
The now famous forehead and extremities of Kevin Costner make cameo appearances as the much talked-about corpse, Alex.
An entertaining look at the 80s embourgeoisement of 60s student activists steers skillfully between social satire and sentiment.