Friday, April 8, 2016
Movies and Musical Muses
Just yesterday I watched The Big Chill, that 1983 hit with an ensemble cast of lesser-known, 30-something actors. Like Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, and Jeff Goldblum. They all have things in their IMDB bios before Big Chill, some big roles in big movies, but the success of this movie must have been a huge deal for them. All the actors I've clicked on have been acting ever since, even the people I didn't recognize and whose other movies and TV work I haven't seen, that I remember.
Oh, and Kevin Costner played the dead friend, but they deleted all his scenes. So that's an interesting bit of trivia.
I was a young teen when the movie came out and saw it a few years after that. I loved the soundtrack right from the start, though--from before I saw the movie. It wasn't my first introduction to Motown and Aretha Franklin, but it was probably my most sustained listening experience. I don't know which of my friends had the album, but she (and it probably was a she) taped it for me. Back in the days of cassette tapes. I'M OLD.
It was one of a very few cassettes I took with me when I spent a year in France on AFS after high school. So it holds a lot of nostalgia for high school, a particularly difficult year (and rewarding, but really difficult), and a million emotions for me. That and Simon and Garfunkel's Central Park concert are the two I recall from France off the top of my head.
Anyway, the Big Chill was by, about, and for people who were slightly younger than my mom (she was fixed in her musical tastes before the Beatles and all done with college and settled down before Woodstock), and much younger than my dad (who is a big fan of Beethoven).
Which is my way of saying this is 100% apex of Baby Boomer ex-Hippie Yuppie-ness. And their lingering obsession with drugs and free love. No "Just Say No" for these people! It's all 1982 hairstyles and ugly sweaters. There's a joke about one character's husband not cheating on her for fear of herpes, but silence about AIDS.
Most of the characters are Mary-Sue-Ish. They are doctor, lawyer, TV star, run a chain of stores, successful writer for People magazine, wife to a rich and powerful executive of some sort. Even the drifter drug-user (they all are, but he's constantly taking something and sharing with his friends) was successful until he lost hope. Pretty much only the dead friend could be seen as a "failure" and the drug guy takes his place with the guy's cabin and girlfriend at the end of the movie. (spoiler alert!) There aren't just regular people in there, the ones who have some average job or an actor who's still trying to make it--they're all superlatives. No mention, either that for a woman to get into a law school in the late 60s/early 70s was still really hard and that she probably faced a lot of sexism.
It's trying to be a search for meaning, but the poster's promise that we need friends to keep us warm is not really kept, I think. They have a nostalgia weekend and people take drugs and sleep together who really shouldn't and then everyone goes home with vague promises of keeping in touch. ("I promise I'll answer your letters this time") So I guess it's realistic in that way.
I figured as a teen that it would make more sense to me from an adult perspective, because it's one of those movies I watched and found a little pointless.
I watched it yesterday and still find it a bit pointless. I guess maybe that's the point? You have friends, you remember the good old days, you sleep with a friend without emotional repercussions (??), you go home.
Except the soundtrack.
The soundtrack is still amazing.
Which is why I'm basing the manuscript I'm working on now on it. I'm working in "Harold, don't you have any other music, you know, from this century?"
Because my main character loves this music. Her grandparents are the one who liked it and though she hated living with her grandparents for a while, she was better off there than with her mom. I think. There's more to it than that, but I'm only halfway through the book (and am writing a blog post instead of writing) and things are still evolving.
But for now, my published works are based in 17th century France. Including the book that just came out, The Honorable Officer. So go forth and read something less Motown and more Moliere.