The Big Chill
is a 1983 dramedy
film directed by Lawrence Kasdan
and featuring a veritable Who's Who of '80s actors, including Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Kevin Kline
, Jeff Goldblum
, William Hurt
, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams.
This is considered to be one of the finest films to show former Sixties
campus liberals who, in The Eighties
, have basically become establishment types
, suffering the angst of entering middle age in the Reagan era while lampshading
the fact that "we had one of the cushiest berths ever".
A group of people who knew each other as college students and friends during the 1960s end up getting back together some 20 years later after their friend Alex commits suicide. All of them have gone along their ways and now look back and wonder where their idealism went. Along the way, they renew their friendships, and sometimes even more, as they try to understand why Alex, with all of his potential, worked at menial jobs and then, for apparently no reason, decided to kill himself.
- Better Than Sex: According to Michael, rationalizations.
Sam: Ah, come on. Nothing's more important than sex.
Michael: Yeah? You ever gone a week without a rationalization?
- Bookends: The movie opens with Harold and Sarah's son singing the Three Dog Night song "Joy to the World" (more commonly known as "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog," and ends with the actual song being played.
- Chekhov's Gun: Sarah's bathrobe.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Chloe
- Corrupt Hick: Played with and subverted; Nick thinks the cop who pulled him over because he looks like a "Yankee drug dealer" is this, but he's willing to let the whole thing go when he recognizes Sam and asks him to recreate a stunt from his TV show (it doesn't go well). And then later, an angry Harold explains to Nick the cop had actually stopped the house from being broken into, and is a nice guy.
- Also, Nick is a "Yankee drug dealer".
- Deadpan Snarker: Mostly Michael and Nick, though Harold has his moments.
- Deleted Scene: The film was originally intended to have several flashback scenes with Alex. These were omitted from the final cut. Alex was played by Kevin Costner.
- Expy: The character Sam plays on his TV show seems a lot like Thomas Magnum, complete with Cool Car and Badass Mustache.
- False Reassurance: Played for Laughs.
Sam: In Hollywood, I don't know who to trust. I don't know who likes me or why they even do like me.
Harold: Well, you don't have that problem here. (Sam smiles) You know I don't like you.
Michael: Me neither.
Harold: So relax.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Many of the characters end up having sex with each other. Meg has considered getting pregnant, so Sarah decides to lend Meg her husband, Harold, for this purpose (and also to balance the books for own infidelity years earlier).
- Longing Look
- Nothing But Hits: The soundtrack contains literally nothing but huge hits from the '60s, including numerous Motown tunes and other favorites such as Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising".
- Posthumous Character: Alex
- Pretty in Mink: Karen wears a couple of fur coats.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Nick
- Shout-Out: As Harold goes up towards the attic to slay a bat that's flown in, he hums the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which Lawrence Kasdan co-wrote.
- Spiritual Successor: While there was a (short-lived) direct TV adaptation called Hometown, it could be argued that thirtysomething is a better example.
- The film itself could be seen as one of these to John Sayles' 1980 independent film Return of the Secaucus 7, which similarly depicts a group of former Sixties radicals reuniting in the same house over a weekend.
- Start to Corpse
- Starts with a Suicide: Alex's, before the opening credits. His funeral is what draws the whole cast together again after nearly 20 years.
- Stealth Pun: Harold's shoe shop is named "Running Dog". Doubles as a Take That Me, as it's Harold poking fun at his own capitalist aspirations.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: invoked by Harold in his eulogy for Alex.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Karen and Sam at least at first.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: A milder version here, but Sam does harbor resentment towards Michael because of an article Michael wrote that slammed him.