The Big Chill: When Baby Boomers Come To The Truth About Their Own Failures
When the film version of The Right Stuff failed in the fall of 1983, Tom Wolfe, who wrote the book it was based on, noted that audience research indicated that moviegoers intended to see the film. because they knew it was important, but they said they didn’t want to see it now. “Tonight,” they said, “we just want to have fun.” So what were the crowd pleasures at the multiplex? One of the two biggest box office hits of the season was an image of James Bond (Never Say Never Again). The other was The Big Chill. Here, we stop for a moment of silent reflection on how a movie about people gathering to talk after a friend committed suicide was 1983’s idea of a blustery evening. The Big Chill was a major cinematic event in 1983, earning $ 56 million at the box office (around $ 150 million today) and securing Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, as well as for the Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close). The baby boomer audiences absolutely loved it and also made the soundtrack a huge hit. It’s funny to note that this movie about how yippies became yuppies (Kevin Kline’s Harold, the rally host, got rich by opening a ‘Running Dog’ sneaker chain) was him- even an element of a synergistic corporate branding strategy. The Motown soundtrack was key to rekindling the label’s value as a mark of nostalgia following the departure of key artists, such as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye. On the back of The Big Chill’s soundtrack, which surpassed Saturday Night Fever’s album to become the film’s longest-running soundtrack album, Motown’s strategy evolved into a game of nostalgia. He began mining his catalog for licensing deals, flashback TV shows, and other exploitations of Boomer memorabilia (Gaye’s recording of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” became the anthem of Boomer. ‘an advertisement on raisins). Barely eleven years after the death of the Flower Power dream with the defeat of George McGovern, the baby boomer nostalgia industry was booming. Consider how little nostalgia for 2010 is around you today, and you will quickly understand how unusual baby boomers were by choosing to handcuff each other at one point while everyone else adjusted. When it first appeared, The Big Chill seemed to be about a lot of things: love, sex, friendship, drugs, nostalgia, and leftover ’60s ideals. Today, however, it’s all about one thing central and obvious: the sound of whiners titled Boomers. (It’s available on TCM’s app until April 10.) To recap the action: a handsome n’er-do-well staying at his friends’ gigantic southern plantation-style summerhouse with his hot young girlfriend kills herself by splitting her wrists. So his old friends from the University of Michigan (class of about 1971) gather in the same house to mourn him on the weekends. They are a doctor (Close) and her husband (Kline), the sneaker mogul; a television star (Tom Berenger); a People magazine writer (Jeff Goldblum); a wealthy lawyer (Mary Kay Place); a drug dealer (William Hurt); and a housewife (JoBeth Williams) whose husband is an affluent advertising executive. When everyone announces that they plan to stay home for the weekend, Sarah Cooper from Close complains, “Where are we going to put everyone?” (It’s a real house: five bedroom, five bath, 7,300 square feet, not counting the guesthouse.) As funny, deeply felt, and expressive of its characters’ pain as the movie – and I get it. have always loved it, since watching it several times on HBO at the age of 18 – today it is fascinating for its obtuse. The characters constantly analyze each other (to the point of filming interviews of themselves and each other) but miss the most obvious things: drug addiction, infidelity and unrealistic expectations of life plague them. . The parents of these baby boomers could have turned them around in about five minutes, but baby boomers are notorious for the generation who thought they were learning nothing from previous ones. William Hurt’s Nick, for example, a character who seems to have walked around from The Sun Also Rises (a Vietnam War injury left him helpless), had a really good job as a radio psychologist, but has left that in a crisis of meaning. He must stop dealing drugs and stop burying his problems with quaaludes, cocaine and pot. If there was a sequel to this movie set in the ’90s, Nick probably would have died as none of his friends bothered to push him into rehab. Instead, Harold offers him a blatant insider trading tip, which hopes Harold hopes Nick gets a new job, but which could just as easily lead to Nick spending even more money on drugs. More glaring than the drug problem in the film, however, is the adultery problem. Sarah cheated on Hiccup with Alex because, she says, “I was just tired of being such a nice girl. Journalist Michael has a girlfriend in New York City but nonetheless brought a stack of condoms on this trip and begins hitting Chloe during the funeral service. Sam, the actor, apparently cheated on his ex-wife, whom he left behind by muttering Boomer’s classic “boredom” complaint. Karen is ready to cheat on her perfectly fine husband Richard with Sam if he is willing to do so. Sam initially turns her down for her own sake, but later the couple go anyway. I’m not even counting the famous magnanimous adulterous bonk, the unforgettable scene in which Sarah lends her husband Harold to the student with Meg in order to imbue the hapless lawyer, whose deepest wish is to have a child, while ‘she had already had an abortion. By the way, neither Sarah nor Harold consider him to have any fatherly responsibility for any child that might result from it, just as Sam doesn’t like to visit his daughter because she’s an uncomfortable reminder of her flaws. Let’s listen to it for Boomer Parenting. The disillusionment that rages in the characters amounts to moping over careers, all of which, except one, are not shameful. Yet all but one of the characters are portrayed as betrayals. What’s wrong with selling Nike sneakers? Meg is a lawyer in real estate law; good for her. In a previous life, she was a public defender who decided she didn’t really like working for rapists and murderers. “Some of them are scum,” notes Harold, the sneaker guy. Michael from Goldblum once intended to ‘go to Harlem and teach these ghetto kids’, and his girlfriend still does, but instead he flies across the country writing celebrity profiles. which are only “32 paragraphs”. I imagine 25-year-old journalists who are lucky enough to get paid to write a one-third of this length story wanting to zap Goldblum with the Melt Stick he used in Thor: Ragnarok, and that’s before anyone who doesn’t tell them about the extravagant salaries The Writers used to command, which would probably cover around six HuffPost writers today. What exactly does this guy have to complain about? Maybe he should stop cheating on his girlfriend and just be a good magazine editor instead of getting confused with Albert Camus. Likewise, housewife Karen has a perfectly good life, but she’s considering throwing everything away because it’s not ideal. Consider her complaints: “I feel like I’ve never been alone in my own house. Either Richard is there, or the boys, or the cleaning lady. Sorry, Karen, but that’s not a real problem. Spend some time alone every now and then – Richard will understand. As for Karen’s complaint that she’s no longer working on her fiction, well, that’s an excuse a lot of non-writers have. Either take time for it (for example, spending less time watching TV) or admit that you are not actually a fiction writer. Maybe Karen’s husband is a little boring, but he’s also, as she admits, a really good guy. Plus, that annoying husband, Richard (the late Don Galloway, who later in life wrote a column in a libertarian newspaper), is the film’s secret hero. Because Galloway plays his man like a hopeless corporate dweeb (he drinks milk when others get high), it doesn’t penetrate either with the audience or the other characters he has the greatest hold on life with: you get the most out of whatever situation you find yourself in. What you don’t do is fall short of an unattainable ideal. The Michigan Seven in the film see themselves as “revolutionaries”, walk in memories of the March on Washington, and wish they could spend their lives working with “Huey and Bobby” (the Black Panthers). But it was just a moment in time that coincided with their college years. “I would hate to think it was just fashion,” Sarah says, but yeah, that’s about what it was. Richard understands that. It accurately describes a much higher priority for adults: raising children. Parenthood places more selfish concerns in their own perspective and ideally binds parents together by giving them a common goal. “The thing with kids is that they’re instant priorities. You know you have to protect them and provide for them. And sometimes that means your life isn’t exactly what you want it to be, ”he notes, and this is all true. As for working for a boss you don’t like: “You try to minimize these things and be the best person you can be. But you set your priorities, and that’s how life is. I wonder if your friend Alex knew that. Just so; Alex was a tortured idealist who turned down a scholarship that appeared to be tied to the military-industrial complex, and as a result he was drafted and had a wayward life of odd jobs, all under him. At one point, he even worked hard as a social worker in 1978 in Boston. It’s a wonder he didn’t kill himself at the time. Richard understands how the idealism of the ’60s ended up being a kind of lingering afterburning that made everyone itchy and miserable. He’s more of a Greatest Generation realizing that life is about compromise: “But the point is, no one said it was going to be fun. At least no one told me. The former revolutionary students around him sit in stunned silence: Of course, life is supposed to be fun! And romantic and irresponsible and hedonistic and without commitment. Except the movie we’re watching is a 100 minute lesson on why none of this works.