The Big Chill
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Starring Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, Jobeth Williams. (1983, R, 103 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 6, 1998
Excerpted from original review: The cooled embers of idealistic passions, the sudden “face-to-face” with mortality, the illumination of the present by the rekindled hearth of the past – this is just some of the terrain explored in The Big Chill. A group of old college friends who shared a house together during the late 1960s are reunited at the funeral of one of their former housemates who has inexplicably committed suicide. For over a decade they had drifted apart, but the weekend they spend together in the funeral's aftermath catalyzes each character's individual reassessment of his or her present circumstances and chosen path in light of the optimism and assuredness of their reglimpsed youth. Each member of the well-chosen cast not only creates a distinct character with unique and memorable resonances but also meshes these separate personalities to form as satisfying an example of ensemble acting as we are likely to see for quite some time to come. This comfortable ensemble quality ironically accounts for one of the film's minor miscalculations: the ease with which the group falls back into their old patterns of trust and familiarity after an awkwardly long period of separation is narratively convenient, but not really probable. Also, these fictive representatives of the Sixties have for the most part achieved more personal and professional success than is generally common. So their weekend preoccupation with the dashed hopes of their youth and the rationalizations of their maturity sometimes appears a luxurious commodity. Among the film's other delights is its extraordinary soundtrack.