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The Big Chill is a 1983 film about a group of baby boomer college friends who reunite after many years and explore the aftermath of the 1960s. It stars Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams. Kevin Costner was cast as the dead character Alex, but all of the scenes showing his face were cut. It was written by Barbara Benedek and Lawrence Kasdan, and was directed by Kasdan. The Big Chill was filmed entirely on location in Beaufort, South Carolinamarker, and was shot at the same antebellum home used as a location for The Great Santini, starring Robert Duvall and Blythe Danner.

The television show thirtysomething was influenced by The Big Chill. However, this was not before the movie was directly adapted to television in CBS' short-lived 1985 dramedy Hometown, whose ensemble cast featured Jane Kaczmarek, Franc Luz and Daniel Stern.


It is the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan is president, conservatism is the norm and the peace movement and counterculture of the 1960s are both a distant memory for a group of baby boomer college friends from the University of Michiganmarker. An impromptu reunion occurs at the funeral for friend Alex (Kevin Costner, edited out of the theatrical release) who had committed suicide in the home of physician Sarah (Glenn Close) and business executive Harold (Kevin Kline). Alex had been living there with his young girlfriend, Chloe (Meg Tilly) while trying to figure out what to do with his life.

After the funeral, the rest of their college friends spend the weekend with Harold and Sarah. They turn to each other as a means of trying to figure out not only why Alex committed suicide but also to explore what happened to the ideals of their youth. This includes the now-divorced Sam (Tom Berenger) who has gone from leading protests to becoming a Hollywoodmarker star bearing a close resemblance to Tom Selleck (he also starred in a television series similar to Selleck's hit series, Magnum, P.I.) Sam continues to harbor romantic feelings for Karen (Jo Beth Williams) who is now living an affluent lifestyle with her conservative husband Richard. Nick (William Hurt) is an injured Vietnam War veteran who suffers from impotence. He was a radio psychologist in San Francisco who questions the ethical nature of what he does and now supports himself as a small time drug dealer. He eventually becomes involved with Chloe whose aimlessness finds greater purpose through this relationship. Michael (Jeff Goldblum), once a radical journalist, now works for People Magazine and is perpetually unfaithful to his (offscreen) girlfriend, the only person who still subscribes to the ideals of her youth. Meg (Mary Kay Place) is a successful but unmarried lawyer who is desperate to have a child. She decides to ask one of the men in the group to have a child with her and spends the weekend trying to determine whom she should ask. It is also revealed that Sarah had had an affair with Alex during her marriage to Harold. While they do not fully resolve the issue of Alex's suicide, the bonds of their youth serve as a method of healing for the current issues in their lives.




Richard Corliss of TIME described the Big Chill as a "funny and ferociously smart movie," stating:

These Americans are in their 30s today, but back then they were the Now Generation. Right Now: give me peace, give me justice, gimme good lovin'. For them, in the voluptuous bloom of youth, the '60s was a banner you could carry aloft or wrap yourself inside. A verdant anarchy of politics, sex, drugs and style carpeted the landscape. And each impulse was scored to the rollick of the new music: folk, rock, pop, R & B. The armies of the night marched to Washington, but they boogied to Liverpool and Motown. Now, in 1983, Harold & Sarah & Sam & Karen & Michael & Meg & Nick—classmates all from the University of Michigan at the end of our last interesting decade—have come to the funeral of a friend who has slashed his wrists. Alex was a charismatic prodigy of science and friendship and progressive hell raising who opted out of academe to try social work, then manual labor, then suicide. He is presented as a victim of terminal decompression from the orbital flight of his college years: a worst-case scenario his friends must ponder, probing themselves for symptoms of the disease.
Vincent Canby of the New York Times argued that the film is a "very accomplished, serious comedy" and an "unusually good choice to open this year's festival in that it represents the best of mainstream American film making." Roger Ebert stated, "The Big Chill is a splendid technical exercise. It has all the right moves. It knows all the right words. Its characters have all the right clothes, expressions, fears, lusts and ambitions. But there's no payoff and it doesn't lead anywhere. I thought at first that was a weakness of the movie. There also is the possibility that it's the movie's message."

The DVD of the film received a 69% rating from Rotten Tomatoes (22 fresh and 10 rotten reviews).

Awards and nominations

The Big Chill won two major awards:

It was nominated for three Oscars:

Other nominations include:

See also


  1. Time review
  3. Ebert review
  4. Big Chill @ Rotten Tomatoes

External links

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