Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
with Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow, Janeane Garofalo
Directed by David Mirkin
Written by Robin Schiff
by Scott Hefflon
The movie opens with “I’m Just A Girl” by No Doubt. It kinda sets the stage for a mid-’90s glorification of “Girls Just Want to have Fun” meets “Nine to Five.” Think part two of Earth Girls Are Easy (minus the fur) and you’ve got the gist. Romy and Michele are two 28 year old blonde dingbats who are happy (enough) with their lives until their chain-smoking classmate Heather (Garofalo) alerts them to their impending 10 year high school reunion. And then the soul searching begins. Or at least the yearbook searching. Yes, many a painful memory is relived as the two buoyant ladies (“bimbos” would serve my craving for crass alliteration but wouldn’t do the babes justice) flip through the scrapbook of hopeful faces, realizing that while they had fun together, they never really fit into any group. They danced together at the prom then as they dance together at the club now, and numerous other similarities accumulate the more they reminisce. It’s the time-honored horror of realizing you never really amounted to anything in your life.
So the quest for impressive lives shifts into high gear. Michele tries to get a job, Romy tries to get them cool boyfriends, and both end up failing. So they decide to lie. Who needs to have an impressive life when all you have to do is waltz into your hometown and pretend you’re wildly successful? Yeah, that’ll work. Painful shortcomings will have you squirming in your seat, all the universally degrading tactics people use to gain power over you and keep you subservient. Everyone makes someone’s life miserable, everyone is afraid of being rejected by someone, and no one is as happy as they appear. While Romy and Michele finally realize it’s better to just be themselves (easy to say, hard to live), they have to suffer numerous humiliations to reach that realization. The reunion itself is about as painful as it gets, yet they survive. The evil A Group in high school are still vicious and cruel, still tormenting anyone not as cool as they make themselves out to be, and only when Romy states, “I don’t give a flying fuck if you like us, because we don’t like you. You’re a bad person with a mean heart” does she achieve freedom, and then the crowd rally behind her. When geek-turned-millionaire Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming) arrives in a helicopter, he’s still a dorky misfit lacking posterboy good looks, but he’s genuine, charmingly insecure, and filthy rich. Despite gross accumulation, he still carries a torch for Michele. And the long-awaited dance (including Romy, of course) is so surreal you’ve just got to love it. As the classmates who shunned them all their lives watch respectfully, the “Yeah, right” pitter-patter of the barefoot ballet to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” was what we all dream will someday happen to us. As if.
As strange as it sounds, I learned something from Romy and Michele. Sometimes the bubbleheads have a simple, honest answer to the questions that plague even the most complex-thinking introspective types. “What’s the point in going if we’re not going to impress people” is about as honest as it gets. “I never knew we weren’t that great in high school. We always had so much fun” is a terrific way of gauging success. Don’t we all wish. And most shocking of all: Evidently girls are really traumatized by the mean-spirited stunts girls pull on each other, and the thoughtless blow-offs guys pull on them. Who knew? We were just kids! I’m just a guy! This was obviously written by a woman, ’cause guys think more in terms of “Man, I wish I could beat him up” rather than deep-rooted insecurity complexes. At least that’s my story. And I’m stickin’ to it.