Written by Kirk BairdPerhaps because this summer marks my own 25th high school reunion, I have a fondness for Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a Blu-ray release. The film stars Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) and Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe on Friends) as two best friends from high school whose fashion sense and other peculiarities made them objects of derision by the cool girls in school. A decade later and Romy (Sorvino) and Michelle (Kudrow) have left Tucson and their classmates behind and moved to Los Angeles. The best friends are roommates, virtually inseparable, and quite content with their lives, but the 10-year high school reunion causes them to take inventory of their accomplishments. Romy is a window clerk at a car dealership, and Michelle is unemployed. They have dreams of being fashion mavens, but that’s never panned out. So when they decide to attend the reunion, they concoct a plan to reinvent themselves as successful businesswomen – they fabricate a story that they invented the post-it notes, or, at least, the adhesive glue on the back of the paper – to impress those who once made fun of them. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.
Sorvino and Kudrow partner so well together and have such great chemistry as best friends on screen, you wonder if perhaps it didn’t spill over into real life. It’s a shame they never worked together on another major project. The cast also features a wickedly comedic performance by Janeane Garofalo as a high school outcast with an acerbic personality who is determined to prove her worth to those who rejected her. Alan Cumming plays the nerdy classmate who overtly pines for Michelle – though she politely declines his advances. And Julia Campbell plays the most-popular girl in school who plots to make Romy and Michele’s life hell in high school, and a decade later at the reunion.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion was written by Robin Schiff, who also wrote the play on which it’s based. (Schiff also wrote and directed the 2005 prequel Romy and Michele: The Beginning, a TV movie with Katherine Heigl (Romy) and Alexandra Breckenridge (Michele) in the leads.) The script’s dialogue retains the feel of a stage presentation, but the sly humor and observations survive the transition to the big screen intact. Schiff clearly has an affinity for her protagonists, and she never lets them devolve into caricatures, as is the case with a lot of films about ditzy or eccentric blondes. These are warm, friendly souls we can’t help cheering for.
Director David Mirkin, who has long-served as a producer on The Simpsons, employs a mostly subtle approach to the film’s humor, allowing the characters and their motivations to supply the laughs rather than inventing obstacles for them to overcome. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion may not be gut-busting funny, but it doesn’t try to be: it’s a pleasant comedy with characters you genuinely care about. For those of us with high school reunions on the brain, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is worth another visit, even 15 years later.