Monday, February 22, 2010
Who wouldn't want to show up all of their formerly contemptuous classmates at their ten-year high school reunion by pulling up in a flashy car and wrongfully claiming to have invented post-it notes? At the time of Romy and Michele's release we may not have totally understood their impulse to lie, but as time pushes us closer in sync with their panicked 28-year old state of mind their motive comes into focus. No matter what you're doing, it's not a huge leap to assume most of us wish we had something a little more impressive to show for ourselves. Particularly when it comes to showing up those mean girls and jerky boys from high school.
We may have assumed we'd have earned a wealth of bragging rights by this point, but most of us haven't even gotten so far as just achieving plain old wealth itself. High school reunions hold a mirror to our lives that reflects a picture of ourselves we may not be completely proud of. You think you're doing alright and BAM! An opportunity arises to showcase your accomplishments and you realize you've squandered the last few years partying and spending your paychecks on shoes. Not exactly the picture you hoped to paint 10 years post-graduation.
This is a movie that only gets funnier as we get older. Many of us found it humorous as children, but the jokes ring far truer the more frequently we face similar situations. Our experiences may not be on the same scale as Romy and Michele's, but there have been countless moments of shining clarity during which I realized at the rate I'm going my college education won't pay for itself for another 5 years. Or when I'd run into an old friend who was becoming an astrophysicist or Planeteer or something equally impressive and I found my own experiences just werent adding up. Whatever the circumstances, most of us have been there. I only wish Michele hadn't already come up with that whole "I invented Post-Its" thing before I got to it. That could have been a killer embellishment for my resume.
Objectively speaking Romy and Michele are losers, but the more I consider my own lackluster autobiography the more I want to come to their defense and say they're doing just fine. Deep-voiced Romy's a low-tier employee at a local Jaguar dealership and bubbly Michele's unemployed, but their collective self-concept is disproportionately positive. In their eyes, they're two good-looking single girls living it up in LA, but to the world they're just a pair of ditsy airheads with no money, no boyfriends, and a penchant for gorging on Doritos and gummy bears.
The girls are former high school outcasts who remain best friends and roommates ten years post-high school. Their self-confidence borders on delusional when you consider their less than enviable lifestyle, but you get the feeling that they truly believe their lives are near-perfect. They watch chick flicks, chow down on candy, wear outrageous outfits, and go clubbing every night. Now that I think about it, that actually sounds pretty good to me. I'm almost willing to swap if I got to wear that ridiculous feather-laden jacket Michele's got on.
They're forced to reconsider their confidence after Romy has a run-in with former classmate Heather Mooney. Heather, an offbeat teen, grew into a high-powered successful businesswoman cashing in on her ludicrous invention of the super-fast burning cigarette. Heather clues Romy in on the upcoming 10-year reunion in Tucson, and Romy and Michele are initially fairly pumped about their chance to reconnect with their former peers. That is, until they realize just how unimpressive and mundane their current lives are. At 28, they're possibly less accomplished that they were at 18. Not exactly how they'd anticipated greeting the A-Crowd 10 years down the line.
We're treated to a series of reminisces and flashbacks of Michele and Romy's horrendously awkward high school days. The aptest part of the film is that regardless of how others may have perceived you in high school, most of us felt like this at one time or another. Teenagers are in an ongoing state of emotional insecurity, meaning most of us can relate (albeit on a smaller scale) to the daily humiliations and tribulations of the adolescent Romy and Michele characters. We may not have been humiliated at prom or had refrigerator magnets surreptitiously and maliciously stuck to our scoliosis braces, but for the most part we got the gist of their disappointments.
Romy and Michele resolve to lose weight, find boyfriends, and land killer jobs. They seem vaguely aware that if those things had been as easily attainable as they'd thought they'd probably have achieved them by now. Perhaps, though, as Romy speculates, they'd just never really tried. Two weeks seems like a reasonable goal, so they decide to go for it.
All of their last-ditch efforts fall to pieces, leaving them no choice but faking it in lieu of making it. Despite what seems to be their total ineptitude at life, they're actually pretty competent budding fashionistas. They make themselves high-powered business suits, borrow a Jag from Romy's employer, and come up with the brilliant back-story that they were the inventors of Post-It notes. Because, you know, they're businesswomen. That's what businesswomen do. They are businesswomen. Businesswomen.
Oh, and in case you missed it, they're businesswomen:
Things turn sour quickly, though, as the girls begin to bicker about their ill-fated scheme. The two have a falling out and we segue into a drawn-out and well-executed dream sequence about the reunion. The popular A-crowd girls are there in matching shiny pastel suits, all having achieved their wildest ambitions. Michele blows them away with an incredibly convincing-sounding description of his discovery of Post-It adhesive, Romy heads off with popular Billy Christiansen, and Michele encounters the once-nerdy but now-billionaire Sandy Frink.
We find it was all a dream and cut to the real reunion, where things don't go quite as they'd, well, dreamed. The A-crowd girls aren't super overachievers, but most of them are pregnant and sanctimonious. Heather exposes Romy's lie about her success, and everyone's pretty much back in their old high school roles. Except for maybe Sandy Frink, who really did turn out to be a billionaire. Not too shabby.
Romy and Michele scratch their plans, get into their signature outfits, and confront the bratty A-crowd girls. Romy tells them off, telling the girls that she and Michele don't care what they think anymore. The A-crowd tries to retaliate by mocking our girls' clothes, but they don't get too far. Turns out the one nice popular girl, Lisa, works for Vogue. Once I got over the fact she was the evil almost-stepmother from The Parent Trap, I was almost able to like her.
We're treated to a hefty dose of "Just Be Yourself!" and the girls perform one of the weirdest-ever interpretive dances caught on film to-date (set to "Time after Time"). Heather even confronts the cowboy from her high school smoking sessions, and turns out he's got a thing for her. Who knew? Our girls are brimming with pride and happiness, and it turns out they were okay just the way they were after all. Billy Christiansen, now married to Christy, shows himself as a cheating scumbag. Christy gets her comeuppance, Sandy gets his due, and the girls get a hearty endorsement for their clothing line from both a Vogue editor and billionaire investor (Sandy, again). Romy and Michele open their own clothing boutique stocked with their signature designs, and all's well that ends well. Because it all ends well, you see.
The original movie may have been fluffy, but it seems like a dense dissertation when you compare it to the made-for-TV sequel. Which, strangely, co-stars Katherine Heigl. If you're ever feeling a bit anti-intellectual for loving Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, here's a surefire cure. Just watch the follow-up. You'll be back to feeling like a Rhodes scholar in no time.