Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion
I went to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion hoping for a tasty, colorful wad of bubble gum, and that’s exactly what it is. The movie is a celebration of its two gently daffy heroines, Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), both closing in on thirty without any hint of growing up. Best friends since forever, they live together in their cluttered L.A. apartment, watching Pretty Woman (which they mock and cherish) and hitting dance clubs. They seem to have no other friends and no future.
Done another way, the movie could be very depressing. Instead it’s, like, really fun. Romy and Michele gets a lot of mileage out of the one event that can strike terror in the most jaded Gen-X heart. The ten-year reunion demands that you be well on your way down the path to capitalist glory: house ‘n’ spouse, good job, maybe a rugrat or two. It’s the Show and Tell from hell. Romy and Michele, staring their ten-year reunion in the face, realize they have very little to show or tell. So they fake it.
The clueless duo recast themselves as powerful career women — self-made tycoons who allegedly invented Post-Its. And it’s a tribute to the light-as-air charisma of Sorvino and especially Kudrow that we really feel a loss when they feign buttoned-down professionalism. We like them because — like Alicia Silverstone in Clueless — they’re so completely who they are: not dummies, but postfeminist goddesses without a whole lot on their minds besides having fun, looking good, and (most important) being kind. When they fake being driven careerists out of the ’80s, we experience it as a violation.
Now and then, the movie plays like a cheerful vindication of everyone who was a misfit in high school. Yes, the super-popular cheerleader wound up marrying the jock stud, but look at them ten years later, stuck in an empty marriage; she’s perpetually knocked up, he’s an alcoholic skirt-chaser. As the movie demonstrates, the problem with peaking in high school is … well, you peaked in high school. Romy and Michele’s aimlessness seems like a bright future in comparison.
The dorks and wimps survived and then some. One geek (Alan Cummings) became Bill Gates, while the bitter misanthrope (Janeane Garofalo, boldly tossing out the nice-girl goodwill she built in The Truth About Cats and Dogs) made her bread marketing fast-burning cigarettes for women on the move. Living well is the best revenge — who needs Heathers? For most of us who existed in the gray area between Heather and Carrie White, Romy and Michele’s triumph is our triumph.
But enough deep-dish analysis. The movie succeeds by being goofy and disposable (and, in the case of an overextended dream sequence, very disposable — funny at first, but goes on well past its purpose). Sorvino scores laughs with that odd is-she-kidding voice of hers (it makes half her lines sound like put-ons); Kudrow may be repeating her space-girl shtick from Friends, but she’s great at it. And I haven’t even mentioned the blissfully absurd dance number, a tiny classic all by itself. This is a warm pink bubble bath of a movie — poppy, soothing, and satisfying on a very basic level.