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The Big Chill

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

In 1983, Lawrence Kasdan created one of the biggest ensemble hits of the past 50 years, THE BIG CHILL.

Having successfully written the screenplays for George Lucas' "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark", Kasdan then wrote and directed what was for me, his best film, 1981's "Body Heat". If you haven't seen that one lately, revisit it to see just how brilliant and sexy films of the early eighties could be.

Kasdan followed that thriller with this quiet, dramatic and funny tale of college friends now in their thirties, coming together again for the funeral of their friend Alex.

It's now film legend that Alex is played by Kevin Costner, who only appears as a corpse in the opening titles, all his flashback scenes were left on the cutting room floor.

But what a cast remains.

Tom Berenger (Platoon) is Sam, star of a popular detective series on TV. Glenn Close is Sarah, a doctor married to shoe entrepreneur Harold (Kevin Kline). Jeff Goldblum is Michael, a People magazine reporter. William Hurt is Nick, the only college dropout who's never succumbed to corporate life, dealing drugs in his Porsche that's seen better days. Jobeth Williams (Poltergeist) is Karen, married with children but still pining after Sam. Mary Kay Place is Meg, a corporate lawyer living a solitary life.

Meg Tilly (Agnes of God) stars as Chloe, Alex's just widowed young girlfriend who watches the old friends camaraderie from a distance.

Kasdan introduces the seven old friends during the funeral and gathering afterward. He and his co-writer Barbara Benedek (1995's terrific remake of "Sabrina") let the characters reveal themselves through conversation, quiet weekend moments and eventually confrontations that unwrap their history together.

Like a time capsule of the early 80's, the film captures that moment in time where college friends realize how their lives have splintered in many different directions. Some are happy, some are not. Some are successful and some are not.

It would be easy to see Kline's role as the least challenging, as he is by far the happiest with his life. But watch Kline's reactions as he realizes there are many quiet feelings in all his friend and his wife that are being reawakened. Loved Close and Kline here, they're both great.

Now classic moments are plentiful, set to one of the best soundtracks in the history of film. A non-stop parade of Motown hits accompany the film as the only music from start to finish.

Grossing seven times its budget at the box office, this was one of Kasdan's biggest hits. He would go on to create more great ensemble films like "Silverado" and "Wyatt Earp" in the Western genre, but never quite captured the generational magic that he did here with this incredible cast.

THE BIG CHILL earns a nostalgic and appreciative A.

Now go put on this incredible soundtrack and start dancing around your kitchen.

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