Monday, March 9, 2020

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #237 - Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997, dir. David Mirkin)

            Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, if you weren’t in your teens or twenties in the late 90’s I bet you didn’t see it. It was Mean Girls before Mean Girls. It’s the story of two twenty-something overblown Valley Girls scheming up a plan to wow all the assholes who made fun of them in high school at their upcoming reunion - what’s not to love?
            I have a confession to make, I haven’t seen all of Friends. I know, shame on me I guess. I knew Lisa Kudrow as Michele before I knew her as Phoebe, even though Friends was a constant on television my entire childhood. I just saw this movie way more than I watched Friends. There just couldn’t be another Michele, just like no one else could be Romy but Mira Sorvino. They are the perfect combo of lovable idiots. And their friendship is so pure, you believe anything they say to each other. Romy and Michele have an eye for fashion - it might be the most outrageous eye for fashion but they have it. From the first time you meet them, lying in bed making fun of Pretty Woman decked out in neon colors like they are about to hit the club all the way to the baby pink and blue dresses they made for the reunion there are some seriously insane outfits. The catalyst for their epic life makeover is a chance encounter with former classmate, Heather Mooney (played by the one and only Janeane Garofalo). Now, Heather here is what one might call a stone cold bitch, and she has every right to be a chain-smoking, all-black-wearing, cursing bitch. She is the literal opposite of Romy and Michele. Like Romy and Michele she had a pretty shitty experience in high school thanks to the “A-Group” lead by Christie Masters (Julia Campbell) and her gaggle of dumb cheerleader friends. Heather also had a big time crush on big time nerd Sandy Frink (Alan Cummings), who had a big time crush on Michele. 
            Romy and Michele decide they can’t just show up to the reunion as their underachieving selves. They have to show up with new fancy jobs and hot boyfriends, but the best they can do is borrowing a fancy car and making their own outfits. So they hit the road, come up with the idea to tell everyone they invented Post-its, have a falling out, and then reach the reunion. Not surprisingly the Post-it scheme doesn’t work out, but the good news is they prove to Christie Masters and her bimbo jock husband Billy Christiansen that maybe their lives turned out for the better - even if they didn’t invent Post-its and get called out on it in front of everyone at the reunion. But then here comes Sandy Frink to save the day, showing up in a dang helicopter. Surprise! - turns out the nerd everyone restlessly made fun of in high school is super rich now and comes to the reunion to win Michele's heart with a dance - which Michele only agrees to if Romy can join them because it’s not Michele and Sandy’s high school reunion, it’s Romy and Michele’s high school reunion. Who knew Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" would turn out to be the perfect tune for three weirdos to do an even weirder interpretive dance to in front of everyone they went to high school with? Romy and Michele are truly ride-or-die best friends who end up with their own little clothing boutique in L.A. funded by Sandy. In the end they get the life that is perfect for them. 
            This may come as a surprise but Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is based on a play called Ladies Room by Robin Schiff. Schiff, a member of the Groundlings, also wrote the screenplay for and co-produced the movie. Lisa Kudrow played Michele on stage before she did in the movie, maybe that’s why she is so perfect for this part. She lived with Michele for longer than just the filming of the movie. Dim-witted dry humor saturates the film; it sneaks into every scene. Like when Romy asks Heather, who literally has a cigarette in her hand every time you see her, if anyone has ever told her that smoking can kill you, Heather stares right back at her and responds dripping with sarcasm and a little bit of sincerity “No. No one. Thank You.” Romy goes on thinking she had maybe made a difference in Heather's life, and Heather just goes about her life. It’s what makes the movie great, everything just rolls off Romy and Michele, they don’t take themselves or anything they do too seriously. 
- Anna Lathem 

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