Film Society goes back to the ’80s with ‘The Big Chill’

Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Meg Tilly, JoBeth Williams, and Mary Kay Place in “The Big Chill” (1983). (IMDB.com)

NEW ULM — Experience “The Big Chill” this Tuesday with the New Ulm Film Society.

The 1983 comedy-drama is the next film in the film society’s’ 80s movie film series and it deals with a subject many Baby Boomers were familiar with in the 80s: the quarter-life crisis.

The screening begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the New Ulm Public Library.

“The Big Chill” tells the story of college friends reunited after 15 years by a funeral for their friend Alex who committed suicide.

After the funeral, the friends decide to spend the weekend at a vacation house. The knowledge that a close friend would choose to end his life weighs heavy on all of them, forcing the characters to re-examine their own lives and search for answers. The haunting truth is there really are no answers.

“The Big Chill” has been described as the successor to “The Graduate,” a film that was released while characters in “The Big Chill” would have attended college. The biggest difference between the two film is “The Big Chill” is set in the ’80s instead of the ’60s and it is about a group of character rather than a single person. It should be noted, however, the deceased character of Alex is similar in many ways to Dustin Hoffmann’s character Ben Braddock.

The film features an impressive cast including Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt and Kevin Kline. It was directed and co-written by Lawrence Kasdan.

Kasdan previously wrote the screenplays for “Empire Strikes Back” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He directed the 1981 film “Body Heat” and would direct the western “Silverado” in 1985.

Kasdan described theme of the film as “when you’re on your own to go out into that world which is very cold and tough — if you could no longer find a group like that, it’s lonely, and people miss it like crazy.”

The film was a hit when first released. It resonated strongly with Baby Boomers, who were facing similar existential struggles as the characters. This is a film about what happens when the ’60s era college kids grow up and find themseveles in the early Reagan-era America. For some, the whiplash is hard to take and “The Big Chill” was the movie to let Baby Boomers know they were not alone.

Like many films of the ’80s, “The Big Chill” deals heavily in nostalgia. The best remembered part of “The Big Chill” is a dance scene set in the kitchen. The scene features the song “Ain’t to Proud to Beg” by The Temptation, which is a song from 1966. For the short run time of the song the characters are transported back to their past, to a simpler time.

It is no coincidence the film’s soundtrack became a massive hit, ranking in at 17 on Billboard’s Top 200 for 1983. Every song feature in the film was released in the ’60s and ’70s. It is designed to remind characters of their youth.

Today, 35 years after the film’s released, “The Big Chill” still inspires filmmakers of today. Countless TV shows feature the same basic premise of friends hanging around with one-another. The film started out as touchstone for Baby Boomers, but the Millennial generation has found new appreciation for the film as a timecapsle for their parents.


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