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Romy and Michele's High School Reunion(1997)
Two women get into a lot of trouble when they go to their high school reunion and lie about their lives after twelfth grade.
For more about Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and the Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray release, see Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on July 31, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow, Janeane Garofalo, Alan Cumming, Elaine Hendrix, Justin Theroux
Director: David Mirkin
» See full cast & crew
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray Review
Revenge of the Nerds, Girl Style
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, July 31, 2012
For the newcomer, it may be helpful to approach Romy and Michele's High School Reunion with the knowledge that the director, David Mirkin (sometimes called "Damned" or "Decadent" David Mirkin), is a longtime producer of The Simpsons. The film, adapted by Robin Schiff (TV's Grosse Pointe) from her original play, shares that show's mocking but affectionate attitude toward its main characters. They're idiots, but they're our idiots. And, with a few exceptions, the people around them are much worse. In both fiction and life, the class reunion is an ideal device for revisiting the past and assessing the years in between. The single finest example I know is Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married (1984), which combines gentle humor with subtle insight in a way that only a master filmmaker could accomplish. (With any luck, American Zoetrope will favor us with a restored and remastered Blu-ray version soon.) Romy and Michele isn't that kind of movie. Schiff's script imagines a world in which most people don't mature after high school; they just move on to the next phase in life. Their personalities, aspirations, social styles, maturity, even friendships remain the same, whether they stay put or move away. Reunite them after ten years, and nothing has changed. (Well, almost nothing.) Romy and Michele rests on the comic chemistry of its two co-stars, who were notable presences when the film appeared in 1997. Lisa Kudrow was in the full flush of her Friends popularity, and Mira Sorvino was fresh off her well-deserved Oscar for Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995). Together, they created a unique friendship between dumb blondes who really are that dumb, but turn out to have character after all.
Romy White (Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Kudrow) were best friends throughout their years at Tucson's Sagebrush High, from which they graduated in 1987 and left for Los Angeles, never to look back. Now it's ten years later, and they've received the invitation to their reunion. What have they accomplished that they can show off to their former classmates? Not much, they realize, as they fill out the class questionnaire in their tiny beachfront apartment in Venice, California. They both consider themselves fashion experts, but Michele is unemployed and Romy works as a cashier at a Jaguar dealership. All they seem to have done for ten years is make their own clothes, go to clubs and watch the same movie repeatedly. "You know", says Michele, "even though we've watched Pretty Woman like thirty-six times, I never get tired of making fun of it." Then she chokes up during the shopping scene. It's only as they reminisce, and we get flashbacks, that Romy and Michele realize they were outcasts in high school. Michele was confined to a back brace to correct scoliosis, and both of them were tormented by the "A" group led by Christy Masters (Julia Campbell), on whose boyfriend, Billy Christenson (Vincent Ventresca), Romy had a crush. Fortunately for Romy and Michele, they had each other, which saved them from the suffering experienced by Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo, caustic and pitch-perfect), who had no one, because the boy on whom she had a crush, Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming), only had eyes for Michele. Heather would duck out at every opportunity to smoke a cigarette, where she always encountered a mysterious figure known only as the Cowboy (Justin Theroux), who would silently torment her further. As it happens, though, Heather Mooney transformed her torments into a success story by inventing a fast-burning paper for a brand of cigarettes designed for short smoking breaks. Now she's rich enough to own a Jag, as Romy discovers one day when Heather comes to the dealership to pick up her car. Heather is less than thrilled to encounter someone from the old school, especially the friend of her former romantic rival. The reunion? Not a chance. (Does anyone need to be told that Heather ends up attending? I didn't think so.) Not wanting to look like failures, Romy and Michele decide to pretend that they're businesswomen complete with their own versions of "power suits", and Romy makes an unusual deal with Ramon (Jacob Vargas), a mechanic, to borrow a cool car so that she and Michelle can arrive in Tucson in style. But en route the two realize that it's not enough just to look successful. They need a story to go with it. So Romy concocts an imaginary business venture that sounds convincing enough in the car but, when the pair reaches their destination, turns out to be, shall we say, paper-thin. Their lie also provokes a bitter argument between the two old friends prompting them to go their separate ways at the reunion, to the disadvantage of both when the "A" group has to confronted. The last thirty minutes of Romy and Michele have a surreal quality that's difficult to describe and really should be seen for itself. Certain events are revealed to be other than they seem (you'll get clues). Others are exactly what they seem, but are so bizarre that you just have to laugh. (If you've enjoyed the movie up to that point, you will.) It gives nothing away to reveal that the much-coveted Sandy Frink makes a dramatic return, but now completely transformed. So does the Cowboy, less transformed. "A" group alpha cat Christy Masters is still a terror, and Romy and Michele face off against her, more than once. As for the conclusion, all you need to know is that the film opened with our heroines watching an unlikely lady shop on Rodeo Drive, and the film returns to its point of origin. (Casting trivia: Look for Kristin Bauer van Straten, True Blood's imperious vampire Pam, as a member of the "A" group, and Camryn Mannheim, in the same year she started on The Practice, as the ultimate nebbish.)
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray, Video Quality
Don't be concerned by the soft, somewhat mushy appearance of the establishing shot behind the latter part of the credits that zooms over the Pacific into Venice, California, until it enters the window of Romy and Michele's apartment where they're watching Pretty Woman. The film was made during the industry's period of overlap between analog and digital technologies, when digital compositing was still reserved for big budget films. Both the credits and the transition from exterior to interior of the apartment are opticals, which degrade the visual quality. As soon as the shot ends, the quality improves noticeably, and it remains generally consistent for the rest of the film. The cinematographer, Reynaldo Villalobos, is a veteran DP with credits that go back to Eighties classics like Urban Cowboy and Risky Business and forward to Breaking Bad. His delicate lighting contrasting the two distinct periods of Romy and Michele is capably reproduced on Disney's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray. This is a soft but fine-grained and detailed image that doesn't appear to have been digitally reduced or artificially sharpened. The softness of the image is essential both to the frequently pastel palette and to the make-up that allows Kudrow and Sorvino to play much younger than they are. Other make-up effects that I'll leave for the viewer to discover also benefit from lighting that softens the edges and surfaces. Black levels are good enough to create the appropriate shadows for Justin Theroux's mysterious Cowboy character, and contrast never gets so strong that the Southwestern sun blows out details. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Romy and Michele's video is that Disney has sprung for a BD-50, even though the disc image is only slightly larger than 27G. Another publisher might have tried additional compression for this 92-minute film, thereby risking artifacts in some of its trickier sequences. It's just too bad the additional space wasn't used for extras.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The prom and reunion scenes are the most obvious beneficiaries of rear channel activity on Romy and Michele's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, but the real glory of the track is the extensive array of Eighties pop standards, which are delivered with a clarity and presence that underline their nostalgia value both for Romy and Michele and for anyone else who has a soft spot for the original era of MTV. A partial list: "She Blinded Me with Science" by Thomas Dolby; "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung; "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins; "Whip It" by Devo; "Turning Japanese" by The Vapors; "Venus" by Bananarama; "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle; "Don't Get Me Wrong" by The Pretenders; "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer; "Our Lips Are Sealed" by The Go-Gos; "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club; and occupying a very special place in both the story and the film, "Time After Time" by Cindy Lauper. Steve Bartek and James Newton Howard provided incidental underscoring that blends remarkably well with these selections, which sound like they came from a greatest hits album pitched on a late night TV infomercial. As good as it sounds, none of the music interferes with the intelligibility of the film's loopy but inspired dialogue.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Disney really needs to stop slapping the "[blank] Anniversary Edition" label on catalog Blu-rays that contain few or no extras and are being issued because we've reached that point in the life of the Blu-ray format where it's time for studios to start exploiting their catalogs. (Some might say it's past time.) Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is a fine example of a low-budget, high-return success that is remembered fondly by its fans and is winning enough to make a new generation of friends in a high-quality presentation. This Blu-ray fits that description, but it doesn't offer anything else. Disney ought to quit trying to gild the lily with "anniversary" descriptions, especially since we know that gilding can sometimes be used to disguise a weed as a flower. But not here. Romy and Michele is highly recommended.
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