The Big Chill (1983)

big chill poster 1983 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visual: 8/10

Good cast

Hard to connect with the characters

Movie Info

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big chill cast

It sucks being 30 something, successful, and wealthy

When their friend Alex shocks everyone by committing suicide, college friends Sam Weber (Tom Berenger), Michael Gold (Jeff Goldblum), Nick Carlton (William Hurt), Karen Bowens (JoBeth Williams), Meg Jones (Mary Kay Place), and married couple Sarah and Harold Cooper (Glenn Close and Kevin Kline) find themselves having a weekend gathering of remembrance along with Alex’s younger girlfriend Chloe (Meg Tilly). As the friends try to cope with Alex’s actions, old feeling are remembered and the group finds themselves coming to terms with the lives they are living.

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan (who also cowrote the script with Barbara Benedek), The Big Chill is a comedy drama. The film was released to critical acclaim and its soundtrack became a best seller. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress (Close), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #720).

The Big Chill was “big” when I was young. The soundtrack was all over the place and the actors really exploded after the movie. It was one of those “adult” movies that kids can’t get into but is more appropriate for “people of a certain age”. While I’m “of a certain age” now (or even past), I still find a hard time connecting to the characters of The Big Chill.

big chill nike tennis shoes mary kay place

Nothing like a cigarette and new tennis shoes for breakfast

The period at which you realize you’re now adults, no longer optimistic, and dislike aspects of your life that seem impossible to change is a depressing time…but everyone has problems. It is the self-involved nature of these characters that kind of bothers me. It is a three day weekend that has everyone’s problems coming out of the woodwork and each character thinking they are the most important character there. The Nick character calls this out (but the reaction indicates that he’s wrong) and the irony is that now in the age of social media and the internet, there is more self-involvement (and don’t even start about the weirdness of Glenn Close studding out Kevin Kline to Mary Kay Place. What if she doesn’t instantly get pregnant…is she going to just keep having sex with him?).

The cast is good, and they seem to work well together. While Close, Kline, Berenger, and Hurt often got the most attention, I’ve always been a fan of the smaller roles like Williams, Place, and the airy Tilly. It is really amazing that Jeff Goldblum has played Jeff Goldblum for so long (and he is always watchable as a result).

big chill dishes dance glenn close jobeth williams kevin kline william hurt

No…just because you do dishes to ’60s music doesn’t make you cool

The nice Carolina location of The Big Chill also is adds to the disconnect for me. The characters are all so successful and finances don’t seem to be a problem for them. Many people would struggle just to get to the funeral, much less have a place like that to stay in. The fact that the characters are so successful doesn’t make me pity them as much as it evokes schadenfreude…poor little rich kids.

The Big Chill has strong writing and a good concept, but I think it also sets up barriers for viewers. It will definitely appeal to certain audience members, but it will alienate others at the same time. The movie is a prequel to other ’80s yuppie movies and shows like St. Elmo’s Fire (which some called The Little Chill) and shows like thirtysomething…if you want to keep your whiny people-watching going.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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