Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is nearly flawless. That’s not to say that it’s great (or even good, necessarily), but it does accomplish what it sets out to do.
It’s been ten years since Romy and Michele graduated. They are still living together, partying together, dieting together, and when there are no cute guys, dancing together. Romy (or is that Michele?) works as a cashier at a garage specializing in Jaguars, and Michele (?) is unemployed. Their lives are not defined by their jobs, but by their vanity, their clothes, and their social life.
At work, Romy (?) runs into her old classmate Heather (vibrantly played by Janeane Garofalo, whom I hope we start seeing more of). Seeing Heather, Romy realizes how much time really has passed. She talks Michele into going back to Tucson for their high school reunion.
The two concoct a story to convince everyone back home that they are successful businesswomen. To back up the story, they design their own “business suits” and wrangle a Jaguar from Romy’s work. When the show up, they show up in style.
Woven into the story are the defining moments from ten years ago that make us understand why these two are eager to return home — both to show themselves off and to see how their friends and enemies are doing.
Romy and Michele works well, at least in part, because it doesn’t judge the main characters too harshly. The movie is practically made of blonde jokes, but the characters are always in on the jokes, if not telling them. No jokes are made at the expense of their dignity.
The movie also has a joy for life that shines through all the rigors of filmmaking. The scene that comes to mind is the fantastic pas de trois dance scene at the end. The broad choreographed movements are funny at first, but the dance continues and it’s not just a joke. Romy, Michele, and their partner (I won’t give away who it is) seem to really be living life and enjoying themselves. The rest of us, both on screen and in the audience look on in jealous admiration of their dance of life.
Along the same lines, the events of the movie lead up to a moral, of sorts. I feared that the moral would be some awkward lesson imposed by the film’s producer, not learned by the main characters. But when the time came, the lesson was simple, not shallow, and quite appropriate to the characters.
The movie gets off to a slow start. Some of the early jokes are obvious and the timing is a little off. But even though the movie takes a while to hit its stride, it is well worth the wait.