This weekend I’m headed to my alma mater for my redacted year college reunion. This will the first time that I’ve made a reunion in a couple years – it usually coincides with MLB playoffs, which is sadly not a worry this year – and it will be the first time in forever that I’m actually staying overnight. I only live about 90 minutes away from where I went to school, so in the past the lure of my own bed has been enough to make me drive home at 2 am.
This will probably be the last alumni weekend that I go to for a while; as my classmates and I get older and our families grow, fewer and fewer people make the journey back. It’s understandable, but it is also disappointing. I’m hoping since this is a reunion year for us that more people will make the effort, but at this point I don’t really know who to expect to see. I have my little posse of people – mostly my sorority sisters and their hubbies – and there isn’t anyone that I don’t want to run into, so it should be a good time regardless. I really loved my time in college; it’s really where I became the person that I am today and my college friends are probably the people that know me best. I’ve had close friends before and after college, but if I had to pick a group of people that I am closest with it would have to be the people that I lived and learned with. I really came into my own when I went away to school and these folks were along for the ride and helped me figure out who I wanted to be. These are the people who know where the bodies are buried – figuratively, of course (as far as you know).
The rise of social media has kind of diminished the need for reunions in some ways. I may not see some of the people that I went to high school and college with all that often, but thanks to Facebook I feel like I know generally what is going on with them. I’ve seen pictures of their kids and I know how they feel about Breaking Bad, which is all I really need to know. Small talk has become a little harder in this respect; you need to remember what you have put in a status update recently to figure out if you are sharing new information with these people or not. I’ve also been on the wedding/baby shower/kid’s birthday party circuit for years, so I’ve seen a lot of these people since we all graduated at various events. But even if reunions don’t mean as much as they used to, it’s still nice to get the band back together every once in a while and head to our old stomping grounds. Plus I am really excited to have some cold cheese pizza. That’s worth the drive alone.
Of course, this got me thinking about reunions in pop culture. The way reunions are portrayed in movies and television generally hasn’t changed much from how they were depicted before the rise of social media. For the most part, all the participants haven’t seen each other in a while and need this occasion to catch up as well as to relive the glory days. There is usually a storyline about someone keeping a secret of some kind and it’s practically guaranteed that there will be some issue with running into an old flame or trying to relive the college/high school experience, often reliving some fantasy that they never accomplished when they were in school. The geeks/nerds want to be more popular than they were and the popular kids want to prove they still have it. Everyone regresses to their former selves. Lessons are sometimes learned.
Keeping this in mind, here are some of my favorite movies and TV shows that have dealt with either college or high school reunions.
Beautiful Girls (1996)
I just straight up love this movie. It has a great cast (Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Michael Rapaport, Marha Plimpton, Lauren Holly, Uma Thurman, Rosie O’Donnell and a very young Natalie Portman) and focuses on Hutton’s homecoming for his 10 year high school reunion. He is at something of a crossroads in his life – should he marry his girlfriend? Should he abandon his career in music for something more practical – and comes home to find his old friends are facing similar uncertainty. I thought this film was very funny and relatable; as someone who grew up in a small town, I found the characters and the dynamics believable.
“The High School Reunion” – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The fact that the gang all met in high school is not a new idea in the It’s Always Sunny universe; it is a well-established fact that is referenced throughout the series. However, it’s always fun when this group of sociopaths is forced outside their own little circle and out into the real world, so sending them to their high school reunion is comedy gold. Dennis is shocked to find out that he is no longer as popular as he thinks he was, while former outcast Dee gets a taste of what it’s like to sit at the cool kids’ table. Mac and Charlie are once again tormented by their classmates and Frank is just along for the ride. Of course it all goes to hell in a hand basket as it often does with these people and we get some guest appearances from other classmates that we have met over the years (The Waitress, Smitty, etc.). Plus any time that the gang dances, it is a good thing.
The Tao of Steve (2000)
I have a soft spot in my heart for the actor Donal Logue so though I am not a fan of romantic comedies in general I liked The Tao of Steve. The opening scene of the film takes place at a 10 year college reunion where Dex (Logue) is reconnected with former classmate Syd (Greer Goodman). Dex is an unlikely Romeo and has developed what he refers to as “the Tao of Steve” to woo women. While usually effective, his methods seem to have little effect on Syd, who remembers him far more than he remembers her. The film is sprinkled with pop culture references, which helps to endear it to me. I don’t know how many people have actually seen this movie; this may be one of my indie darlings that no one has ever heard of.
Grosse Point Blank (1997)
I really don’t like Minne Driver – something about her really annoys me – so it says a lot about Grosse Point Blank and the magic of John Cusack that I am willing to overlook the fact that she is the co-star of this film. Martin (Cusack) returns to his hometown for his ten year high school reunion – and to kill a guy. Martin is actually a professional hit man, which definitely would liven up any reunion. I highly doubt that any of my former classmates are murderers for hire, but that would certainly give us something to talk about.
“High School” – Everybody Loves Raymond
You don’t really get more sitcom-y than Everybody Loves Raymond, which would normally preclude me from liking it. For some reason, however, I don’t mind this show all that much. They all yell too much and Deborah is really irritating, but if I come across an episode when I’m channel surfing I’ll probably stop to watch it. One of my favorites is the storyline where Ray takes Deborah to his 20th high school reunion and is surprised to see how easily she falls in with the popular kids – despite this being the first time she’s ever met them. This brings up all sorts of insecurity for Ray, as he was one of the nerds.
The Big Chill (1983)
This isn’t officially a movie about a class reunion, but it is about a group of college friends reuniting after a friend dies. The Big Chill features a lot of the elements and themes of a classic reunion movie and features an all-star cast (William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, JoBeth Williams, Mary Kay Place and Meg Tilly) and soundtrack. Now that I’m older, I can relate to this movie much more than I did when I first saw it back in the 80s. It captures a lot of the undercurrents that exist between old friends. I haven’t revisited it in quite a while, but I assume it holds up fairly well.
There are plenty of other films and movies that deal with reunions, but honestly many of them aren’t very good in my opinion. I couldn’t even get through 10 Years and that had Channing Tatum in it. When I am disinterested enough in a movie that I don’t even want to look at Tatum for 90 minutes that is a problem. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and Zack and Miri Make a Porno almost made the list, but I haven’t watched them in a while and I can’t remember if I actually liked them or not. What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows featuring class reunions? Sound off in the comments below!