The Big Chill Released in 1983

On September 28, 1983, Columbia Pictures released The Big Chill. The film, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, featured baby boomer college friends reuniting around fifteen years after school for the funeral of a friend who committed suicide. The film perfectly encompassed the baby-boomer anxiety about selling out in life and a loss of innocence.

And of course, there was the humor.  And the movie featured the great soundtrack with such performers as Marvin Gaye, Creedance Clearwater Revival, and Aretha Franklin.

The move taught me an important lesson that had little to do with the lost idealism or the friendship of the characters. I learned how great it can be not to know anything about a movie before you see it.

When I was in college, I went to a shopping mall with friends and we decided to see a movie. As we debated what to see, none of us had yet seen any advertisements for The Big Chill. I only knew that my sister had seen it and liked it, but I had no idea about the story or the actors.

Well, we decided to see The Big Chill based on my sister’s vague recommendation. By the time the movie got to the scene with the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” I was hooked.

For the time period, with MTV only about two years old, the movie seemed like something new and refreshing, using rock music to explore the 1980s nostalgia for the 1960s. I do not know if I would have loved the movie so much had I known what to expect. So I learned the best way to see a movie is without expectations. Now, before I see a movie I try to learn only as much as I need in order to decide whether or not I want to see it.

Thus, in case you have not seen the The Big Chill, I will not say much more about the plot. Many have fond memories of the movie, which had a great ensemble cast of Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams.

Much later, we would read that the dead friend Alex, who we never see in the film, was originally played by a young Kevin Costner.  You may here more about a deleted flashback scene in this reunion video.

Critics are somewhat divided on the film.  I understand how looking back at the movie through today’s lens, one may see too many cliches.

But for the time, seeing the movie through my own innocence, it helped connect me a tiny bit to thinking about how I might one day look back on my own life. And today, I find myself older than the characters in the film looking back nostalgically at where I was when I first saw The Big Chill during my own college years.

What is your favorite scene in The Big Chill? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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