“The Big Chill” Movie Review: Baby Boomers Discover The Truth About Their Own Failures

Kevin Kline in the opening streak of The big thrill. (Criteria collection / via YouTube)

How the quintessential Boomer movie turned into an unintentional parable of how the Flower Power generation missed what really went wrong

Wchicken the film version of Good things Stranded in the fall of 1983, Tom Wolfe, who wrote the book it was based on, noted that audience research indicated that moviegoers intended to see the film because they knew it was important, but they said they didn’t want to see it properly. now. “Tonight,” they said, “we just want to have fun.

So what were the crowd pleasures at the multiplex back then? One of the two biggest box office hits of the season was a James Bond film (Never say never). The other was The big thrill. Here, we stop for a moment of silent reflection on how a movie about people getting together to talk after a friend’s suicide was 1983’s idea of ​​a blustery evening.

The big thrill was a major film event in 1983, earning $ 56 million at the box office (around $ 150 million today) and securing Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Best Actress in a supporting role (Glenn Close). The baby boomer audiences absolutely loved it and also made the soundtrack a huge hit. It’s funny to note that this movie about how yippies became yuppies (Kevin Kline’s Harold, the rally host, got rich by opening a chain of “Running Dog” sneaker stores) was him- even an element of a synergistic corporate branding strategy.

The Motown soundtrack was essential in reigniting the label’s value as a nostalgic brand after the departure of key artists, such as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye. On the back of The big thrill soundtrack, which exceeded the Saturday night fever album to become the oldest film soundtrack album, Motown’s strategy evolved into a piece of nostalgia. He began mining his catalog for licensing deals, TV specials, and other Boomer memorabilia exploitations (Gaye’s recording of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” became the anthem of a commercial. for raisins). Just eleven years after the death of the Flower Power dream with the defeat of George McGovern, the baby boomer nostalgia industry was booming. Consider how little nostalgia for 2010 you see around you today, and you’ll quickly understand how unusual Baby Boomers were by choosing to handcuff each other at one point while everyone else adjusted.

When he appeared, The big thrill seemed to be about a lot of things: love, sex, friendship, drugs, nostalgia, and the remnants of ’60s ideals. Today, however, it is all about one thing centrally and visibly: the sound of whining titled Boomers. (It’s available on the TCM app until April 10.)

To recap the action: A handsome n’er-do-well staying in his friends’ gigantic southern plantation-style summerhouse with his hot young girlfriend kills himself by slitting his wrists. So his old friends at the University of Michigan (class of about 1971) gather in the same house to mourn him for the weekend. They are a doctor (Close) and her husband (Kline), the sneaker store mogul; a TV star (Tom Bérenger); a People– magazine writer (Jeff Goldblum); a wealthy lawyer (Mary Kay Place); a drug dealer (William Hurt); and a housewife (JoBeth Williams) whose husband is an affluent advertising executive. When everyone announces that they plan to stay home for the weekend, Sarah Cooper from Close moans, “Where are we going to put everyone?” (It’s a real house: five bedrooms, five bathrooms, 7,300 square feet, not including the guesthouse.)

As funny, deeply felt, and expressive of the pain of its characters as the movie is – and I’ve always loved it, ever since I saw it several times on HBO at the age of 18 – today it is fascinating by its obtuse. The characters constantly analyze each other (to the point of filming interviews of themselves and each other) but miss the most obvious things: drug addiction, infidelity and unrealistic expectations of life plague them. . The parents of these baby boomers could have turned them around in about five minutes, but the baby boomers are known to be the generation who thought they were learning nothing from previous ones.

William Hurt’s Nick, for example, a character who seems to have come from The sun is also rising (an injury from the Vietnam War left him helpless), had a really good job as a talk radio shrink but left that in a crisis of meaning. He needs to stop dealing drugs and stop burying his problems with quaaludes, cocaine and weed. If there was a sequel to this movie set in the ’90s, Nick probably would have died as none of his friends bothered to push him into rehab. Instead, Hiccup offers him a blatant insider trading trick, which Hiccup hopes will lead Nick to getting a new job, but might as well cause Nick to spend even more money on drugs.

However, the adultery problem is more glaring than the drug problem in the movie. Sarah cheated on Harold with Alex because, she says, “I was just sick of being such a good girl.” People the journal Michael has a girlfriend in New York but nonetheless brought a stack of condoms on this trip and starts dating Chloe during the funeral service. Sam the actor apparently cheated on his ex-wife, whom he left behind by muttering the Boomers’ classic complaint of “boredom.” Karen is ready to cheat on her perfectly fine husband Richard with Sam if he’s up for it. Sam initially turns her down for her own sake, but later the couple go for it anyway.

I’m not even counting the famous magnanimous adulterous bonk, the unforgettable scene in which Sarah lends her husband Harold to study with Meg in order to get pregnant the hapless lawyer, whose deepest wish is to have a child, while she previously had an abortion. By the way, neither Sarah nor Harold consider him to have any fatherly responsibility for any child that might result from it, just as Sam doesn’t like to visit his daughter because she’s an uncomfortable reminder of her flaws. . Let’s listen to it for Boomer Parenting.

The disillusion that afflicts the characters amounts to moping over careers, all of which except one have nothing to be ashamed of. Yet all but one of the characters are shown as sold. What’s wrong with selling Nike sneakers? Meg is a lawyer in real estate law; so much the better for her. In a previous life, she was a public defender who decided she didn’t really like working for rapists and murderers. “Some of them are scum,” notes Harold, the sneaker guy. Michael from Goldblum once intended to “go to Harlem and teach those ghetto kids”, and his girlfriend still does, but instead he flies across the country writing celebrity profiles which are only “32 paragraphs”. I imagine 25-year-old journalists who are lucky enough to get paid to write a story a third of this length and want to zap Goldblum with the Melt Stick he used in Thor: Ragnarok, and it’s before someone tells them about the extravagant wages that People writers used to order, which would probably cover around six The HuffPost writers of today. What exactly does this guy have to complain about? Maybe he should stop cheating on his girlfriend and just be a good magazine editor instead of getting confused with Albert Camus.

Likewise, housewife Karen has a perfectly good life, but she’s considering throwing everything away because it’s not ideal. Consider her complaints: “I feel like I’ve never been alone in my own house. Either Richard is there, or the boys, or the housekeeper. Sorry, Karen, but it’s not a real problem. Allow yourself a little time alone every now and then – Richard will understand. As for Karen’s complaint that she’s no longer working on her fiction, well, that’s an excuse a lot of non-writers have. Either take the time for it (for example, spending less time watching TV) or admit that you are not actually a fiction writer.

Karen’s husband might be a little boring, but he’s also, as she admits, a really good guy. In addition, that stupid husband, Richard (the late Don Galloway, who later in his life wrote a column in a libertarian newspaper), is the secret hero of the film. Because Galloway plays his man like a hopeless corporate jerk (he drinks milk when others get high), it doesn’t fit in with either the audience or the other characters he has the most sway over. life: you get the most out of whatever situation you find yourself in. What you don’t do is agonize over not living up to an unattainable ideal. The Michigan Seven in the film portray themselves as “revolutionaries,” remember the March on Washington, and wish they could have spent their lives working with “Huey and Bobby” (the Black Panthers). But it was only a moment in time that coincided with their college years.

“I would hate to think this was all fashion,” Sarah said, but, yes, that is about what it was. Richard understands that. It accurately describes a much higher priority for adults: raising children. Parenthood puts more selfish concerns in their proper perspective and ideally binds parents together by giving them a common goal. “The thing with kids is that they’re instant priorities. You know you have to protect them and provide for them. And sometimes that means your life isn’t exactly the way you want it to be, ”he notes, and this is all true. As for working for a boss you don’t like: “You try to minimize that stuff and be the best person you can be. But you set your priorities, and that’s the way life is. I wonder if your friend Alex knew that. Just so; Alex was a tortured idealist who turned down a scholarship that appeared to be tied to the military-industrial complex. At one point, he even worked hard as a social worker in Boston in 1978. It was a miracle he didn’t kill himself back then.

Richard understands how the idealism of the ’60s ended up being a kind of lingering afterburning that made everyone itch and miserable. He has more of a generation greater understanding that life is about compromise: “But the point is, no one said it was going to be fun. At least no one told me. Revolutionary students around him sit in stunned silence: Of course, life is supposed to be fun! And romantic and irresponsible and hedonistic and without commitment. Except the movie we’re watching is a 100 minute lesson on why nothing at all it doesn’t work.

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