I enjoyed The Big Chill when it came out. It gave me an appreciation for Motown that I had callously ignored. It made me think of the friends I had made in high school and college. It gave me one of my favorite heydidjaknow moments in film: Who played the corpse?
If you haven't seen the movie, it's not a huge spoiler, since the corpse figures briefly in the opening credits and then becomes the mostly unspoken issue behind these nascent adults and their burgeoning grown-upness. One of their member has died and they all have to come to grips with that looming specter. Not so much of their friend's death but their own mortality. Birth and sex and marriage and relationships all tend to terminate at the same station is something these folks reckon with over the course of a weekend. Coming to grips with the death of their friend is the theme of this long weekend in the country. The Motown helped.
As years passed in my life, I have had a number of opportunities for similar reflection. It hasn't always taken the death of someone close, but there have been gatherings of "the clan" at moments that brought back all of those connections and tensions between those people who at one time shared a very intimate experience and then drifted away. And as witnessed in that movie upon which I am basing all current and future ideals of friendship, there are some people who never shake loose. That's the prize.
It helped, in the movie, to have a bunch of really good actors saying words written by a really good screenwriter. And access to all that good music. They were oldies back when that movie came out. Like listening to DEVO now. It occurred to me that those college buddies from the late sixties would now be in their seventies, and their number would likely be thinned by the drag of life and all its hazards. There would be grandchildren. There would be failed marriages. There would be the ones that were now relegated to the Christmas newsletter. And the inevitable Facebook discovery.
When The Big Chill came out in 1983, I tried to make it fit into my world view. Thirty-five years later, it turns out that it that most of us are riding that same wave, seeking the comfort of friends who knew us when things were so simple. And safe. When I first saw that movie, I had a flurry of cynical reactions to it that suggested that I couldn't be touched by it. Because that's what Hollywood had in mind when they made it.
Turns out, I was wrong.