Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

Romy and Michele's High School ReunionI watched Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion last night for the first time since it was out — almost two decades ago. My response to it this time was exactly as it was the first time I saw it. It’s an incredibly funny and charming film. At the same time, it’s a structural mess. About 50 minutes in, the film inserts a ten minute long dream sequence. That’s a little strange, but it’s followed by a non-dream sequence that is, if anything, more unbelievable. I remember when first watching it thinking that it too was a dream sequence.

This is all unfortunate, because the screenplay does an admirable job of tying up loose ends. I think the problem is that the second act depends upon Romy and Michele having a fight, and it is hard to imagine the two of them staying mad at each other. Hence: a dream sequence! In the reality of the film, the two only manage to stay mad at each other during the end of the drive to the reunion. The moment that Romy finds herself in an embarrassing situation, Michele runs to her assistance. And that is the heart of the film: the strength of these two women’s friendship.

Although both Romy and Michele are airheads, they are also classic nerds. As many of you know, my definition of a nerd is someone who is so interested in whatever they do that they don’t realize how uncool they are. All the two of them are aware of is that they are not part of “the A group,” but it doesn’t occur to them that they uncool. And that’s good, because they are cool. They are having a good time doing what they enjoy. For me, the high point of the film is when Michele (the more clueless of the two) tells Romy:

I never knew that we weren’t that great in high school. I mean, we always had so much fun together. I thought high school was a blast! And until you told me that our lives weren’t good enough, I thought everything since high school was a blast.

And in addition to everything else, they are very creative. For 12 years and probably more, they’ve been designing and sewing their own clothes. That’s where the nerd factor really comes in because that is an activity that is unusual, but which seems to them like fish to water: of course they would make their own clothes. It doesn’t matter to me, but being a movie, they must get social acceptance for it, so the Vogue editor compliments them, “They have nice lines. A fun, frisky use of color.”

There are lots of other aspects of the film. All the nerds triumph in life while while the cool kids mostly don’t. And there is the fact that everyone is horrible to each other — even the heroines. Although it is hard to see it as serious. For example, the two of them make fun of the film Pretty Woman, but Michele cries at one point, “I just get really happy when they finally let her shop.”

But the main aspect of the film besides friendship is female empowerment. Even star quarterback Billy Christensen is subordinate to mean girl and alpha A group member Christie Masters. But even nerd turned billionaire Sandy Frink is just there for plot purposes. Once Romy and Michele get in his helicopter, you don’t even see him. And at the end, although he has loaned them the money to start their own clothing boutique, he’s nowhere to be seen. It is just Romy and Michele and the foul-mouthed, chain smoking, cynical Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo) buying probably the first piece of non-black clothes in her life. As Michele says, “For me, it’s like I’ve just given birth to my own baby girl, except she’s like a big giant girl who smokes and says ‘shit’ a lot. You know?” I do. These two are more iconic than Thelma and Louise.

14 thoughts on “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

  1. Although I remembered enjoying the movie, I didn’t remember much else until you reminded us Garofalo was in it. Then I instantly remembered the baby line before I read it here. That was very funny. Kudrow is a great comic performer.

    • I watched it again. The final lines in the film are Romy and Michele telling each other that they think the other is the funnest person in the world. It’s so sweet. I didn’t mention it in the article, but the dramatic peak of the film is really fulfilling, “What the hell is your problem, Christie? Why are you always such a nasty bitch? Do you get some sort of sick pleasure from torturing people? I mean, yeah, okay, so Michele and I did make up some lame story. We only did it because we wanted you to treat us like human beings. But you know what I finally realized? I don’t care if you like us, ’cause we don’t like you. You’re a bad person with an ugly heart, and we don’t give a flying fuck what you think!” If only life ever provided such moments!

      • If only life ever provided such moments — kind of what I got from Kaufmann’s “Adaptation,” actually.

        • Well he asks the server to go to the flower show with him, it’s crushing. None of us have ever really gotten past the trauma of high school. That’s one of the reasons Romy and Michele is so much fun.

    • I think adult nerds normally know that they aren’t cool. It’s more that by the time you notice that you aren’t cool, you already really like nerdy things.

      But the essence of my beliefs about nerds has to do with engaging with one or more things at a point in life when most kids don’t want to be seen as caring about anything.

      • I knew I wasn’t cool by the second week of kindergarten and I never really fit in anywhere long after that.

        And now this is bringing up painful memories so I am going go do something silly.

            • Could be. :-) But it is also a question of what narrative you want to apply to your life. I’m not saying that nerds are literally not aware that they aren’t in the A Group. But they find their nerd activities more important — or at least compensation for their outsider status.

  2. Thanks for this post! It reminds me about how much I loved this movie, although I haven’t watched it in a while. It was such a fun film; so full of pure joy and divine dippy-ness. You’ve inspired me to re-watch it!

    • It’s a film worth owning. It’s more quotable than The Big Lebowski — which is saying a lot. “I’m the Mary, and you’re the Rhoda.” But mostly, it’s just so sweet.

  3. My family loves this movie and I have great fondness for it myself. It is on my short list of Standing Movies. Standing movies for me are when I am passing through the room a movie is playing in and I just wind up standing there watching the whole damn thing. In the case of Romy and Michele, I was passing by the TV room, while working as Resident Manager at St. Peter and Pauls Family Homeless Shelter, Mankato MN. It was only a few minutes into the movie and there was something otherworldly about its flow and style. I had just been living in a van, prior to getting that job and had not seen a movie in a few months. It was great. Really took me out of my headspace. Though, the smoking woman really bothered me………
    Thanks for sharing!

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