“We can go to the reunion and just pretend to be successful.”
Just because Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is a simple movie does not mean that it’s simple-minded. In fact, despite the often ditzy delivery from its two outstanding leading ladies, the film’s light on the surface approach has plenty of universal truths brewing deep inside, and the straightforward sensibilities only allow those honest observations to shine through with greater ease. Hilarious, heartfelt, and exceptionally well made, Romy and Michele is without a doubt one of the standout comedies of the 1990’s, and is a love letter to the friends we come to know as family.
Best friends Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michelle (Lisa Kudrow) live together in LA, escaping the bullies of their Tuscon years, led by Christie Masters (Julia Campbell) and her stuck-up crew of cohorts. Romy works at a car dealership, Michelle is unemployed and sews together cute outfits. They live together in a beachfront apartment, always in sync and complimentary of each other, and spend their evenings trying to find decent men out at clubs while ultimately dancing together instead. But Romy comes across their old classmate Heather Mooney (a delightfully deadpan Janeane Garofalo), hears about the Sagebrush High ten year reunion, and suddenly the friends realize their lives really aren’t as great or as glamorous as they once thought. The retrospection and the jog down memory lane cause a serious, almost destabilizing introspection. Maybe their résumé really isn’t all that impressive.
The duo try a last ditch, two week long effort to secure good jobs, find boyfriends, and to hit the gym in hopes of looking their best. And since comedies are often at their funniest when sympathetic failure is involved, it should come as no surprise that Romy and Michele resort to concocting an elaborate yet hardly thought out lie to tell their peers: they, of all people, invented the Post-it. They arrive in a nice car wearing black business casual dresses. Romy even bought a cellular phone. Then comes the big fight, their charade is quickly unmasked and the bullies are back in full force. It might sound like I’m giving away the entire plot of the movie, but what happens here isn’t the least bit surprising. You can forecast the plot as easy as someone calling for rain with grey clouds quickly rolling in. However, the way it transpires is totally distinct. Romy and Michele spins this familiar yarn into something with its own stylish, at times iconic signature.
With Kudrow perfecting the scatterbrained sidekick role and Sorvino adding great depth to a woman desperate to be seen as a success story, Romy and Michele navigates some of our most formative years in a way that’s entirely unique yet incredibly personal. We’ve met these people before, some of us admittedly even are them, and if not it’s still easy to see the good and the bad of yourself in these characters. There’s something for everyone to empathize with here. And with the creative flourishes by director David Mirkin, going long on dream sequences and using the yearbook as a time machine to revisit those unforgettable – and more often than not rather painful – memories of high school, the film is able to singularly say something surprisingly profound about self-worth. We’re all dealing with something, and even the people who put us down have others cutting their legs from beneath them, so it’s best to just be yourself, to let your guard down, and to dance like nobody’s watching. To know that how you feel about yourself matters a hell of a lot more than what others might think of you.
“Let’s just go dance with ourselves.”
Rating: 4 out of 5