Where Are They Now?

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion commemorates Gen-X nostalgia

I went to a restaurant recently that had posted a list of "Inappropriate Topics of Conversation." Along with Dennis Rodman and Tiny Murdered Beauty Queens, the list included Bad Movies with Gratuitous '80s Soundtracks. I will take it on faith that they meant Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and not Grosse Pointe Blank. Alas, I have to review the former. Now, I'm all for mindless entertainment, though the burgeoning genre of dumb and dumber movies, of which Romy and Michele is the latest contribution, is a little disturbing. (So is this sudden thing for Gen-X nostalgia.) But is the desire for quality fluff oxymoronic? These days, it might be just moronic.

Granted, one doesn't expect greatness from a movie like Romy and Michele. Funnier would have been nice, but all the best jokes (which isn't saying a lot) are in the TV ad. Director David Mirkin was apparently (and wisely) aiming for something of a Clueless with grown-ups. Unfortunately, having the same costume designer (Mona May) is not enough to carry off the likeness; Robin Schiff's script, adapted from her play, needed serious doctoring.

The movie's titular event causes its titular characters, Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), to realize that their lives are going nowhere. They are, respectively, a cashier at a Jaguar dealership and an unemployed fashion fiend. (How they afford their Venice beachfront apartment is anyone's guess.) They're not doing so hot in the boyfriend department, either. When Michele suggests that they could have sex to see if they're lesbians, Romy rebuffs her, then reconsiders: "If we're 30 and still not married, ask me again." Nevertheless, the girls decide that if they can't get a life before their 10-year reunion, they'll make one up.

See, they were outcasts back in school--Romy was fat and Michele wore a backbrace--and they want to show everyone a thing or two. That is to say, all the clichés about high school and high school reunions apply. So they go to the reunion. They get in a fight (having to do with which of them is Mary and which is Rhoda), and their fabricated lives are cruelly exposed. But then there's the inevitable Tender Moment when they learn The Value of Friendship--and of Being Themselves.

As a 40-ish pundit loudly observed on his way out of the theater, "They put in so much effort for those short sequences, and the rest of it was just so flat!" Indeed, there are a few stand-out moments--like Romy and Michele's three-way interpretive dance with Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming), the science-nerd-turned-millionaire with a long-standing crush on Michele--but overall, this is a matzah movie that wanted to be a cream puff. The pundit also claimed that Janeane Garofalo was "as bad as she ever is." Here he's wrong. Garofalo, as a surly former classmate of Romy and Michele's, is the bright spot in the film; thanks to her supporting role, she doesn't have the constraints of the leading ladies.

Speaking of which, what is Mira "I'm not just beautiful, I'm intelligent" Sorvino doing here? She's certainly not using the comedic skills that won her that much-contested Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite, but then she's not working with Woody Allen, either. As for Ms. Kudrow, she's simply Phoebe from Friends, but in wackier get-ups that show a lot more leg. Together, these two could've learned a lot from AbFab about how characters need not be "deep" in order to have chemistry. The movie takes its leave of Romy and Michele six months after the momentous reunion. Their dreams--which involve retail, not boyfriends--have been fulfilled, and yet plenty of options are left open for a sequel. So how about moving on that lesbo thing?

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is playing at area theaters.

 
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