Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Because it’s Simpsons Week at The A.V. Club, we’re recommending films featuring key contributors to the series, from actors to writers to a certain famed composer.
Over the past decade or so, men who passive-aggressively resist the idea of adulthood one mixing bowl of Lucky Charms at a time have become ubiquitous enough to warrant their own comedy sub-genre. But similarly entrenched women are still relatively rare, and prominent examples like Girls’ Hannah Horvath and Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana are still young enough to get something of a pass. The heroines of Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion have less of an excuse—they’re attending their 10 year high school reunion, which means they’re pushing 30. But it’s also never occurred to them that they should have careers or families until they need those things to spite the popular girls from high school, which, in their way, makes them revolutionary.
Like the similarly underrated Josie And The Pussycats, Romy And Michele’s is smarter than its garish, girly exterior suggests. First of all, Robin Schiff’s screenplay (based on her play Ladies’ Room) is endlessly quotable, with the obliviously affectionate feedback loop of Romy and Michele’s friendship resulting in exchanges like this one:
“God, that was so rude. You couldn’t help it if you had scoliosis.”
“I know. And what a bitch, taking your hamburger.”
Second, the performances are uniformly on point, particularly Lisa Kudrow as the vapid Michele, whose comebacks aren’t nearly as cutting as she thinks they are, and Janeane Garofalo as Heather Mooney, a bitter, sarcastic former classmate who made her fortune inventing quick-burning cigarette paper. Alan Cumming also makes an appearance late in the film as dorky teen turned Bill Gates-esque inventor Sandy Frink, who airlifts Romy and Michele into a fairy-tale life of folding scarves after this incredible dance sequence:
Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion marked the feature directorial debut of longtime TV writer and producer David Mirkin, who served as show-runner for The Simpsons seasons five and six. (Mirkin also co-created the Chris Elliott cult classic sitcom Get A Life.) Mirkin is credited with taking The Simpsons in new, surrealist directions under his leadership, as evidenced by his lone solo “written by” credit, season five’s “Deep Space Homer.” Mirkin brings that same disregard for conventional narrative structure to Romy And Michele, which contains several flashbacks and an extended dream sequence that stretches from the reunion itself to our heroines’ death beds, where they are still arguing over who is the Mary and who is the Rhoda in their relationship. “There were a few things I wanted to change about the script, some structural and some emotional,” Mirkin said in the press notes that accompanied the film’s release back in 1997.
Take, for example, the emotion of feeling persecuted, a common concern that Mirkin and Schiff approach with a uniquely cynical perspective. Yes, Romy and Michelle do get their revenge on the popular “A group” in dramatic sitcom-esque fashion. But the film’s most satisfying emotional resolution is when Heather realizes that even she, a C-list outcast, made poor, peppy Toby Walters (Camryn Manheim) miserable in high school. “Tremendous! That’s tremendous! Go get your stupid yearbook, I would be happy to sign it!” She says, providing one of many lines from this movie worth adding to your repertoire when your usual Simpsons quotes start to go stale.
Availability: Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion is available on DVD, which can be obtained from your local video store/library, or to rent or purchase through the major digital services. It’s also currently streaming on Netflix.