J.D. Lafrance
The Big Chill: Criterion Collection DVD Review

The Big Chill: Criterion Collection

July 30, 2014

Director: Lawrence Kasdan,
Starring: Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, JoBeth Williams,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

It was during the 1980s that the Baby Boomer generation were at the height of their influence and The Big Chill (1983) is often regarded as one of their most identifiable pop cultural touchstones. Using the clout he had acquired for his screenwriting on popular movies like The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Lawrence Kasdan created a thoughtful ode to his generation with a film made for and by Boomers. What most remember of The Big Chill is the cast grooving and singing along to 1960s Motown hits in a kitchen, but obviously there is much more to the film than that iconic scene.

When a close friend of theirs from school commits suicide, a group of seven thirtysomethings spend the weekend together sorting through their feelings and reminiscing about the good times they had in the ‘60s while looking apprehensively ahead to a future as responsible adults. There’s Harold (Kline), a running shoe mogul; his wife Sarah (Close), a physician; Michael (Goldblum), a writer for People magazine; corporate lawyer Meg (Place); Sam (Berenger), a popular television star; Nick (Hurt), a dropout/drug dealer; and Karen (Williams), the wife of an advertising executive. Thrown into the mix is Chloe (Tilly), their deceased friend’s girlfriend and ten years his junior who doesn’t have the same cultural touchstones as the others. The film plays out the weekend as old arguments and romantic feelings surface among these friends as they try to make sense of it all.

Kasdan examines how each character deals with the unexpected death of their friend in their own unique way. He’s always had a deft touch with actors and this film may be the best example of that with a top notch cast that expertly inhabits their characters. There is an ease and a generosity between these talented actors that makes them believable as long-time friends.

The Big Chill’s influence is significant. Beyond the fact that almost every reunion movie that came after is indebted to it in some way, there’s thirtysomething, which, in some ways, is The Big Chill: the T.V. show. Kasdan’s film is a snapshot of where his generation’s headspace was at the time as its characters wrestle with the fears and aspirations that came with the ‘80s, namely material wealth and how it conflicted with the rebellious ideals they had in the ‘60s. The Big Chill tries to address these contradictions and more in a thoughtful and heartfelt way.

Special Features:

This new Blu-Ray transfer is easily superior to any DVD incarnations of The Big Chill, preserving the texture of the film stock Kasdan used. In a nice touch, Criterion has offered two audio options: the original mono track and a 5.1 surround sound track that really showcases the film’s selection of memorable tunes from the ‘60s.

Included is a trailer for the film.

“Success in the System” is a new interview with writer/director Lawrence Kasdan who talks about working within the confines of Hollywood. He also talks about using his clout from writing successful screenplays for blockbuster films to write and director his own personal films. Naturally, he discusses the central themes of The Big Chill among other things.

The Big Chill: A Reunion” is a 1998 retrospective documentary that runs just under an hour and features Kasdan and his cast reflecting back on the film. It takes us through the genesis of the project, including the origins of the film’s title. This documentary also takes us through the production in wonderful detail and it is great to see the cast speak admiringly of it.

“Thirtieth Anniversary Q&A” was held at the Toronto International Film Festival and featured Kasdan with key cast and crew members reminiscing about the film. This is a fun and engaging extra as everyone speaks highly of their experience on The Big Chill.

Finally, there are just over nine minutes of deleted scenes. Unfortunately, the flashback sequence with Kevin Costner that was cut by the studio is not included and it is pretty obvious why this footage was taken out.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 97%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/28610-the-big-chill


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