Top Movies About Class Reunions: My List
I was at the movies recently and the trailers for forthcoming attractions came on. There was one for a film called ‘Ten Years’ starring Channing Tatum (he seems to be everywhere this year- must have a great agent!).
There was something immediately heart warming about the theme—a 10-year college reunion. I remembered my own college reunion few years ago: the anticipation, the surprises and disappointments, the awkward conversations and instant reconnections, the fakes and the real-deals, old jokes and new laughs, getting drunk, singing and dancing and getting generally overwhelmed by the whole experience.
All this made me think about the reunion films I have enjoyed in the past. So I decided to make a ‘list’ of some of the better ones I have enjoyed. The theme is evergreen and opens up to a million possibilities, as these films aptly demonstrate. You may have seen some or all of these. There may be others out there too so do add to the list in your comments below. This is purely based on the films I have seen.
The Big Chill (1983)
The film that launched many a career, the baby-boomer classic that inspired many reunion stories to follow, was director Lawrence Kasdan’s sophomore effort. He had an earlier hit with the dark thriller Body Heat starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, hailed by critics as ‘neo-noir’.
The Big Chill brings together many of Kasdan’s friends. Originally it was intended to showcase the acting skills of his closest friend Kevin Costner, who played the central character whose death brings all the friends together for a 15 year reunion since college. In a strange twist of fate, Kasdan’s final cut edited out any reference to Costner, instead only showing his body being dressed for the funeral in the opening sequence.
Kevin Kline and Glenn Close play married couple Harold and Sarah in whose house the unhappy victim had stayed with his strange girlfriend Chloe (Meg Tilly). The suicide and the subsequent funeral brings together the others who haven’t seen each other since college days. Successful TV star Sam (Tom Berenger), sexually frustrated journalist Michael (Jeff Goldblum), career woman desperate for a child Meg (Mary Kay Place), drug-addicted Vietnam vet Nick (William Hurt), and unhappily married mother of two Karen (Jo Beth Williams) together for one eventful weekend after the funeral.
The friends dissect past and present, wisecrack and smoke pot, pair off in unexpected combinations and all the while try to explore why Alex may have lost his will for his life.
Combining drama with effortless comedy, full of wonderfully natural acting and dialogue, this is a gem of a film that doesn’t trouble itself in giving cheap emotional pay offs but showcases life and all its vagaries in a smart, sensitive and entertaining ride and was nominated for three Oscars. It won the Writer's Guild Award for best original screenplay.
After famously leaving Kevin Costner's (Alex) face on the cutting room floor ( you still get to see his body getting prepared for the funeral!) , Director Lawrence Kasdan made up by making a star out of him by giving him a lead role in his following hit film, a Western revival, Silverado.
A special mention has to go to the outstanding soundtrack for The Big Chill that became a classic in its own right. It features many a Motown Classic including the Temptations (My Girl, I ain't too proud to beg), Marvin Gaye (I heard it through the Grapevine), Aretha Franklin (You make me feel like a ...), Four Tops (It's the same old thing), and many many more.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
After a fantastic run in the seventies making the classics Godfather I and II and the superb Apocalypse now, Francis Ford Coppola suffered a string of flops in the eighties until he came up with this little gem. It is about a middle aged housewife Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) going to her 25th high school reunion full of regrets about her decision to marry her high school sweetheart Charlie (Nicholas Cage).
In a strange twist of time and space she gets zapped back to the sixties and with all the foreknowledge of what has happened since, gets a chance to remake her life decisions all over again. Will she once again fall for the charms of Charlie or will she pair up with the nerdish Richard (Barry Miller) who has always carried a torch for her? Peggy Sue sets about repairing some past regrets but may well be making some new ones.
Full of delightful plot twists, fish out of water comedy and splendid acting, this once again shows Coppola could do small as well as big, as long he is armed with the right script. The film also features the as yet popular Jim Carrey as Walter Getz and the consummate veterans such as Maureen O’Sullivan and John Carradine. With a great soundtrack and splendid acting, this is definitely one to watch.
The film has been ranked in Entertainment Weekly's top 50 high school movies of all time.
Did you know that Nicholas Cage's real name is Nicholas Kim Coppola and that he is Francis Ford Coppola's nephew and cousin to the latter's daughter Sofia Coppola (who directed Lost in Translation).
Peter's Friends (1992)
This British 'Big Chill' is a delightful ensemble comedy drama, directed by and starring actor/Director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Frankenstein, Henry V).
Ten years after they had been to Cambridge and acted in an ensemble comedy troupe, the friends of Peter (Stephen Fry) join him at his request to spend a New Year weekend at his newly inherited country house. Peter lives here on his own with his housekeeper (Phyllida Law).
The friends are Andrew - now a successful Hollywood screenwriter (Kenneth Branagh), married advertising jingle writers Roger (Hugh Laurie) and Mary (Imelda Staunton), costume designer and serial seducer Sarah (Alphonsia Emmanuel) and the eccentric publishing executive Maggie (Emma Thompson). Accompanying them is Andrew's wife Carol (Rita Rudner - who co-write the screenplay) and Sarah's latest lover Brian (Tony Slattery).
Over the course of the weekend past laughs collide with present realities. The laughter hides many darker undercurrents and secrets. Everyone's perceived success is slowly revealed to be tainted with personal tragedies and regrets and ultimately put into perspective as Peter reveals the reason for bringing them all together.
This masterful ensemble comedy/drama is chock full of acting talent and future stars who go onto become even greater roles and accolades and award glories. And yes, who would've thought the browbeaten jingle writer/husband Hugh Laurie will go on to become the sex symbol Dr. House.
Many of the cast actually did go to Cambridge University in real life (Fry, Laurie, Slattery, Thompson as well as co-screenwriter Bergman) and were part of the ensemble troupe Cambridge Footlights during their time there. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were popular on British TV as a comedy double act. Branagh was married to Thompson at that time and Phyllida Law who played the housekeeper is Emma Thompson's mother in real life!
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Martin Q Blank (John Cusack) has a problem. An Ex-CIA operative and a currently a freelance assassin for hire, he is wealthy, lethal and successful. However he is having an existential crisis. His life feels empty, he is having pangs of guilt (not about the killings) about jilting his high school sweetheart Debi (Minnie Driver) at prom night. His secretary Marcella ( Joan Cusack) and his nervous therapist Dr Oatman (Alan Arkin) both suggest he takes a break by attending his high school reunion.
Martin is understandably having doubts about the whole enterprise ( Do I tell them I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork?) but when an assignment comes up in his hometown Grosse Pointe, Michigan that coincides with his reunion, Martin hopes to mix business with (?) pleasure. He meets Debi (who is still single) and attempts to reconcile the lost years as clumsy NSA agents (Hank Azaria), old friends (Jeremy Piven) and rival assassins converge to Grosse Pointe on reunion night, what follows a madcap mayhem of thrills, romance, existential awakening and shoot outs.
In a stunningly original premise, Grosse Pointe Blank is an exciting, funny, thrilling, romantic film played for laughs with a scorching screenplay and quote-worthy one liners. Add into the mix a deadpan Dan Ackroyd as a rival assassin who is forcing Martin to join a union, and you have all the ingredients for a highly entertaining couple of hours.This is one of my all time favorite comedy classics that has enjoyed cult success on home video. The film was co-written and produced by John Cusack and was directed by George Armitage.
The film has a 'killer' soundtrack (sorry!) and some corking dialogue all of which are immensely quotable. A running joke is that Martin all the way through tells people the truth about his profession and no one even bats an eyelid thinking he is joking.
Mr. Newberry: What have you been doing with your life?
Marty: Uh... professional killer.
Mr. Newberry: Oh! Good for you, it's a... growth industry.
John Cusack cast his real life sister Joan as his secretary Marcella. His other siblings Amy and Bill appear is small cameos as a drunken alumna and a waiter respectively. The assassin Felix La Poubelle who attacks him in the school halls is actually the popular Kick Boxer Benny Urquidez, who was Cusack's kick-boxing instructor in real life!
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
While not on the scale of the others on this list, Romy and Michelle's high school reunion is perhaps a guilty pleasure. Blonde airhead friends Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) live in California. Both are single and unsuccessful but they lead a life full of fun and frolic. After a chance meeting with an ex-schoolmate Heather (Janeane Garofalo) they come to know of the forthcoming high school reunion at Sage Brush high and brings back memories of ritual humiliation and unpopularity.
Desperate to make amends, Romy and Michele do madcap attempts to lose weight, seek boyfriends and eventually end up inventing a career (they allegedly invented post-it notes) and turn up at the reunion dressed as successful business women.
Their plan goes to pot as rivalries emerge, but Romy and Michele go their own way through the night, meeting ex-loves and past bullies, shedding their business women persona to reveal the shiny glittery outfits they made themselves for the night.
After a series of twists and turns, the blondes find it redeeming that all is not what it is and the very people who bullied them may be those who deserve pity. A chance encounter with the high school nerd (Alan Cumming) and a former student who is now an editor of Vogue (and who now loves their outfits) sets them on a path to opening a clothing franchise.
Featuring a hilarious 'interpretive dance' sequence to Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time," Romy and Michele is a fun ride into their lives and makes for an undemanding comedy viewing.
Romy and Michele's is based on a successful late 1980s stage play 'Ladies Room' written by Robin Schiff. Lisa Kudrow reprised her stage role of Michelle for both the film and also a TV pilot based on the play called ' Just Temporary' for NBC. Although the show wasn't picked up, NBC did air the pilot after the film's success.
Ten Years (2012)
And finally, the film trailer that started my reminiscence.
Ten Years is a forthcoming reunion movie written and directed by newcomer Jeremy Linden. Five close friends reunite ten years after their high school graduation. They mull over their various lives and loves and the turns their life has taken. As friends reunite and reminisce, their secret wishes and revelations start to unravel.
Jake (Channing Tatum) is ready to propose to his long time girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) until he runs into his old flame Mary (Rosario Dawson), the one that got away ten years earlier; Jock Cully (Chris Pratt) is happily married to cheerleader Sam (Ari Graynor) and is hoping to apologize for all the pranks and bullying to his ex-school mates, until he reverts to type as the night wears on.
Rivals Marty (Justin Long) and AJ (Max Minghella) spend all night vying with each other for the attentions of Anna (Lynn Collins), the coolest girl of their school years; while Reeves (Oscar Isaac), now a popular singer, tries to gather up courage to break the news of his undying love to his secret crush Elise (Kate Mara).
The film has been out in Toronto film Festival and the buzz has largely been positive. With a talented cast and a familiar theme, this is certainly one to watch out for.
Jenna Dewan who plays Channing Tatum's long term girlfriend, is his wife in real life. The couple have been married since 2009. Channing Tatum has had a very good year, scoring hit after #1 hit with 'The Vow', '21 Jump Street' and 'Magic Mike' - Lets see if he makes it a quintet with 'Ten Year'
Oscar Isaac , who plays a singer in this film, is also a singer in real life and has sung the song 'Never Had' which features in the film as his hit single.
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© Mohan Kumar 2012