Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
The Blonde Leading The Blonde.
There are films we love, films we quote and films that encapsulate certain moments in our lives — Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is one such picture. Released in 1997 — four years after I started high school — Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion tackles the timeless subject of the ‘class reunion’ — an ideal method for exploring the past and assessing the years in-between. Being somewhat invisible to most during my high school years, the film — at the time — resonated strongly within my own life; I’d often recall the Romy and Michele mantra, affirming that one day I’d return to my school reunion a changed person. Of course, revisiting the picture brought about many elapsed emotions but ultimately reminded me of why I adored the flick immensely upon its release, as Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is a first-rate example of a low-budget, high-return picture that’s remembered fondly by its many fans.
Romy White — a striking Mira Sorvino — and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) were best friends throughout their years at Tucson’s Sagebrush High School. After graduating in 1987, the girls flee to Venice Beach, California, vowing to never look back. Now ten years later, they’ve received an invitation to attend their school reunion. Although the 28-year-olds consider themselves fashion experts — they design their own cloths — the girl’s lives are far from successful; Michele is unemployed and Romy works as a cashier at a Jaguar dealership. Whilst reminiscing, glancing through their yearbook, Romy and Michele realize they were, in fact, both outcasts who were constantly bullied by the popular ‘A’ Group, led by Christy Masters (Julia Campbell), on whose boyfriend, Billy Christenson (Vincent Ventresca), Romy had a crush on.
Luckily the reunion presented an opportunity for Romy and Michele to get their act together: they planned to get jobs, get boyfriends, and lose weight. When it becomes evident that they won’t achieve any of their goals in time for the event, they simply decide to head to the reunion with their heads held high, devising a scheme to act as tremendously thriving businesswomen with a bogus success story — let’s just say you’ll never look at Post-Its the same way again. But when Romy and Michele reunite with their former classmates, they instantly fall back into their old roles — laughingstocks. With no other options available, the duo choose to embrace their true selves and prepare to have the night of their lives.
Directed by David Mirkin — occasionally called ‘Damned’ or ‘Decadent’ David Mirkin — a longtime producer of The Simpsons, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is sometimes a bizarre or offbeat mix of comedy and drama that surprisingly works on multiple levels. As a picture, Romy and Michele chiefly rests on the chemistry between its two co-stars, who play brilliantly off one another as the ditzy roommates. Stunner Mira Sorvino, fresh off her well-deserved Oscar for Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite (1995), proves that she not only has world class legs and a refined personality, but an abundance of comic talent, delivering a insanely charismatic performance as the ‘brains’ of the pair, Romy. Lisa Kudrow — who then was at the height of her Friends fame — is equally terrific as the bubblehead Michele, although her portrayal of the character shares similarities to that of her Friends counterpart Phoebe Buffay. Both Kudrow and Sorvino bring so much liveliness and naivety to their exceedingly delightful characters that we become inclined to naturally support their pursuit for acceptance. Let’s not forget about Mira Sorvino’s — whom I was highly infatuated with at the time and let’s face it, without a doubt will always be — cute Tucson accent. Additionally, Romy and Michele’s friendship — which defines the film — is both plausible and genuine from the onset, easing viewers into their crazy world while swiftly moving from past to present early on in the picture. As the girl’s bond is so sincere, one can’t help but wonder what the pair is up to today.
Although Romy and Michele are fictional characters, the anxieties and ramifications caused by their bullying are fundamentally real. Malice impacts the lives of those who have suffered from it — experiencing similar feelings myself — it’s rather easy to understand what goes through the minds of characters such as Romy and Michele in these instances, as we can essentially surpass cruelty from our past, but never fully recover from the traumas. The film also does not hesitate in attacking fake values prevalent in many high schools today regarding the measure of one’s success. Here, our stars decide to take their own unique path in life and ultimately judge success by relishing their days while not taking things too seriously.
The film’s supporting cast is uniformly solid as well, with the wickedly cynical Janeane Garofalo, Mystery Men (1999), giving a pitch-perfect performance as the chain-smoking outcast Heather Mooney. Similarly to Romy and Michele, Heather was tormented during her high school days by the geek she was madly in love with, Sandy Frink — played by a terrific Alan Cumming, GoldenEye (1995), proving that the guy can seamlessly step into any role and fit it — constantly ignoring Mooney while carrying a burning torch for Michele. Justin Theroux, Mulholland Drive (2001) — who somehow happens to appear in a number of my favorite films — is another welcome bonus as a Cowboy who silently torments Heather further. Having seen this film over a dozen times, I can assure you that even background characters have something memorable to add to the picture, from the little known Mr. Lish (E.J. Callahan) to the bubbly Yearbook fanatic, Toby Walters (Camryn Manheim), this is inspired casting at its best!
The script adapted by Robin Schiff from her original play is zany and bright while still ringing true to several real life dilemmas. Set in a world where people don’t really mature after high school, the screenplay moves at a brisk pace, with the exception of a drawn out sequence prior to the reunion itself. Fear not, once the final act kicks off, the picture delves into a surreal territory that’s difficult to describe in words, but demands to be seen. A colorful, vibrant, timeless female-buddy classic about growing up and staying true to oneself — sporting a fantastic eighties and nineties soundtrack — Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is every high school underdog’s feel-good anthem.
As Romy and Michele is clearly winning enough to make a new generation of fans — it’s still being revisited seventeen years after its theatrical release — I suggest checking it out if in the need for some cheering up. In the end, I didn’t attend my own high school reunion due to a mixture of reasons, however, when recollecting the past, I’d say that the real saving grace of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is its ability to provide hope and inspiration — particularly through that tough transition from teenager to adult — as it’s stories like these that save people in the most unexpected ways.
Have a Romy and Michele day!
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is released through Buena Vista Home Entertainment Australia