Saturday, April 5, 2014

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion


Things have been an absolute madhouse here at Chateau Maine over the last week. I've been going full steam ahead with my new theatrical project, Aida on Ice, planning publicity campaigns, helping conceive sets and costumes, and rewriting the score in order to better showcase my wonderful tap abilities. Madame Rose, my publicist, has hired a camera crew of four to sit in on all of our meetings and to tape the bustle of activity around the house in order to have plenty of raw footage for my new reality series, Project GreenLester, which will trace the evolution of this important new theatrical event. HBO turned the concept down, apparently they've already done something similar but Madame Rose says not to worry, she has a potential deal going with the Golf Channel.

Michelle Kwan turned down the opportunity to be my personal skating trainer. Joseph, my manager, has come up with a Tonya Harding, who apparently was a champion skater once upon a time, who will work with me down at the rink starting next week. I've never skated before, but I'm world famous for my dancing talent and it can't be all that different. I've been practicing by spreading Wesson Oil (a gift from Florence Henderson) over the floor of the studio and then sliding in my stocking feet. I've gotten my time step down but am still having some difficulties with my pull backs and my buck and wing. I have had to post some warning notices at the door, though, the camera crew came racing in the other day, eager to tape my creative process and several of them had to make a quick trip to the emergency room for ice packs and splints.

In between all of my work, I did have one spare moment to sneak off to the home theater to catch a film. My channel surfing led me to stumble across Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, a film I remembered enjoying during its initial theatrical release in 1997. I settled in for an hour and a half of pleasant diversion, trying to ignore the chaos developing up stairs.

Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) are two brainless blondes, best friends since high school, trying to lead successful lives in Los Angeles. Their lives consist of working out, dead end jobs, bad romantic choices, club dancing, a deluded sense of fashion, and each other. When the invitation arrives to attend their ten year high school reunion, they take a good look at themselves, don't like what they see, and decide to reinvent themselves for the party. Armed with a new car, their version of a business woman's wardrobe, and plenty of chutzpah, they try to pass themselves off as the inventors of the Post-It note. Needless to say, this plan is not terribly successful, and they find themselves relegated to their usual 'loser' status by the 'popular' ones. But fate has a few tricks up its sleeve and Romy and Michele end up having the last laugh.

This is a film that's not terribly strong on plot; it's much more about quirky character. A strong cast of supporting players as Romy and Michelle's class mates (including Janeane Garofolo, Alan Cumming, Vincent Ventresca, Justin Theroux, and Camryn Mannheim) embody various stereotypes including (respectively) the idiosyncratic Goth, the class nerd, the jock, the redneck and the fat girl. They're a lot of fun but it's tough to believe any of the thirty-something actors as twenty-eight and flashback scenes where they play their characters as high school students are positively laughable.

Screenwriter Robin Schiff strings together some reasonable one liners, some deft comic scenes, and the occasional really lame piece of writing in an enjoyable mélange. Some sequences, such as Romy and Michelle's bad club experiences, fall flat while others, most notably a serenely dippy pas de trois at the reunion, are little gems. She does make sure not to dwell on any one thing too long, and the riotous pace is helped along by a soundtrack stuffed full of 80s top 40 hits.

The film succeeds, not on the writing or the direction or the sheer artistry of film making, but rather on the sublimely funny performances of Sorvino and Kudrow in the leads. Their bovine stares, complete lack of intelligence, and inability to cope with the requirements of the real world are hilarious. Kudrow, in particular, is a brilliant natural comedienne, far better than her long run on Friends might suggest. They also project a certain sweetness beneath their stupidity that keeps the audience squarely on their side through the proceedings.

This is not a film to be sought out, but it's certainly a pleasant diversion on an otherwise stressful day.

Star Trek dress. Officious name tag hostess. Tired waitress. Gratuitous faked orgasms. Scarf folding. Discount clothing store. Gratuitous scoliosis brace. Cyndi Lauper songs. Vogue editor.

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