LA is Just a Big High School.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Directed by David Mirkin
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is a textbook 1990s feel-good comedy. With classic character tropes and a tagline of “The Blonde Leading the Blonde” it nails all of my expectations. While I wouldn’t say this is the most beautifully crafted piece of filmmaking, it accomplishes its goals. This classic high school film will not only make you nostalgically appreciative of your high school days but also reflect on the deeper idea of how we define success once we leave the nest.
It’s easy to define success in high school. You either are on the honor roll or you aren’t. You either play a varsity sport or you don’t. You’re either dating the most popular boy or you’re not. And while a lot of these stereotypes probably come from “high school” movies, these clichés still gives us a basis to measure our high school success. But once you leave, things get sticky. Success is defined by the individual rather than their place relative in the group. There are no honor rolls or athlete awards to set certain people apart from others. Each person becomes responsible for their own life and choices – and they make those choices based on what brings them joy.
I think that’s why this movie hit home for me. Romy and Michele are two best friends living together in LA, and while LA may sound like a step up from many of their high school friends who live in Tucson, their lives are far from glamorous. Both are unmotivated; Michele is unemployed while Romy works as a cashier. While working one day, Romy runs into an old high school acquaintance, Heather Mooney – the classic 90s Marla Singer-esque, black Doc Marten-wearing, grungy character trope – who reminds her that their high school reunion is in two weeks. Immediately, Romy tells Michele and the two reminisce on their high school memories, deciding to go. They quickly realize a major issue; how will they frame their lackluster lives as prosperous in their peers’ eyes? With only two weeks to create successful seeming lives, they give up and decide to fake their success instead. They set off to Tucson posing as rich businesswomen, which couldn’t be further from their characters.
The captivating plot line had me hooked… on a personal level. I want to move to LA and I hope also be a successful business woman, climbing the rungs of the entertainment industry. However, I know years of sharing apartments and working entry-level jobs fall in between the present and that end goal. Beyond this story of rags to riches, the film goes deeper. Once the two arrive at the reunion, they spark a disagreement over who should take a greater share of their fictitious success and go their separate ways. Humiliated, they reconcile their differences and realize their bogus front means nothing if they don’t have each other. The two realize that they are, in fact, content with their seemingly mediocre lives. Just because your ideas of success or your timeline of success are different from others doesn’t mean you’ve failed – and the characters complete their arc when they lose this need for approval. Just as the classic female duo comedy goes – Romy and Michele change out of their black business woman suits and strut back into the reunion together in their chic, outlandish outfits. Talk about warm and fuzzy.
This movie certainly has its flaws. The acting is questionable at times and it felt like it took a little bit long to get the ball rolling, as one yearbook flashback after another droned the exposition longer than I would have liked. I wouldn’t say it had the greatest impact on me – it didn’t make me uncomfortable or teach me something new. But it felt good. It was comforting, and it was a little bit of an eye opener to step back and see whose eyes I’m using to measure my own success. It left me nostalgic of my high school years, and also longing for large group gatherings again since we haven’t seen anything of the type in about three months.
This movie, like I said in the beginning, encompasses the 1990s. I ate up the costume design – the sunglasses, the hair scarves, the feathers – and I absolutely loved the chick flick elements that saturated this film. I relished in the character tropes and the romanticized depictions of high school because they felt fitting to the tone. While I didn’t necessarily laugh as much as I thought I would, my emotions were satisfied in a different way. If your high school reunion is coming up and seeing your old peers fills you with dread, I would definitely suggest this lighthearted pep talk from Romy and Michele.