Big Chill, The (1983)

Big Chill, The (1983)

“The thing is, nobody said it was gonna be fun. At least, nobody said it to me.”

When their friend Alex commits suicide, a group of baby boomers — including a tabloid writer (Jeff Goldblum), an actor (Tom Berenger), a drug-taking Vietnam vet (William Hurt), a lawyer (Mary Kay Place), and the wife (JoBeth Williams) of a successful businessman (Don Galloway) — gather at the home of happily married Sarah (Glenn Close) and Harold (Kevin Kline), where Alex’s young girlfriend (Meg Tilly) is also staying.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Counterculture
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Get Togethers and Reunions
  • Glenn Close Films
  • Jeff Goldblum Films
  • Suicide
  • William Hurt Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is highly cynical in his review of this film by “Lawrence Kasdan and his co-writer Barbara Benedek” about “seven college radicals from the sixties-early seventies [who] are reunited when the ‘leader’ of their former group commits suicide.” He notes that “if this is what became of his previously involved, socially conscious friends, then it’s no wonder the guy committed suicide.” OUCH! Peary argues that while “the film is slick and funny,” it’s “infuriating that Kasdan thinks most sixties radicals have gone the way of Jerry Rubin:”

… and adds that he “certainly know[s] more people from the sixties protest movement who are more like the characters in John Sayles’s superior 1980 film Return of the Seacaucus Seven” — who, “if they’re not out in the streets,” at least “haven’t sold out their values and are still doing their part for social change.” I don’t believe Kasdan or Benedek think this is what has happened to all “sixties radicals” — or even that this particular group of folks was once “radical” so much as idealistic, young, and liberal. The filmmakers are simply telling a slice of reality as they experienced it themselves.

Peary asserts that the “best, most nostalgic scenes have characters gathering in the kitchen for food and chit-chat”:

… and argues that while the “dialogue is sharp,” it’s “too precise (it comes across as if it were written rather than delivered spontaneously).” He notes that the “most appealing character is the outsider, the dead man’s young, shallow girlfriend Meg Tilly,” who “hasn’t been formed yet, so she surely hasn’t been corrupted.”

However, several of the other characters are appealing as well, most notably Close as the grieving ex-lover of the deceased friend:

… and Berenger’s refreshingly humble T.V. actor, who hates seeing himself on-screen:

While this immensely popular movie is no longer must-see for all film fanatics, I think it remains worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Strong performances by the ensemble cast

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended as an Oscar-nominated one-time favorite.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Big Chill, The (1983)

  1. Not must-see and in overall agreement with the assessment. (It’s not a film I would want to revisit, since it didn’t do much for me – which is to say, I didn’t have a strong feeling one way or the other.)

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