Does The Big Chill Capture the Baby Boomer Generation?


“The film is like a home birth movie, in which a group of insufferable Baby Boomers midwife a neoliberal fever-dream about the moral sacrifices that adulthood should entail.”

Scott Beauchamp of online political magazine The Baffler doesn’t pull any punches in his disdainful assessment of Lawrence Kasdan’s 1980s Baby Boomer ensemble. And, for a film that won more than its fair share of plaudits at the time, Beauchamp’s 2015 article is an extreme but not unrepresentative look back at The Big Chill’s artistic and cultural legacy some thirty-plus-years on. There’s nothing less hip or woke than admitting to admiring The Big Chill. That the film’s modern defenders include Lena Dunham (her essay “These Are Your Parents” appeared alongside the film’s Criterion Blu-ray release), an initially acclaimed but increasingly divisive cultural figure accused of naïve white privilege, arguably only adds fuel to the bonfire of Kasdan’s supposed vanities.

The judges, juries, and executioners of today’s polarized social media are rarely interested in nuance. You’re either for a public figure, trend, or cause, or you’re against it. A film, book, record, or comedy stand-up routine is either the greatest thing ever, or a risible, retrograde disaster. I loved The Big Chill when I saw it as a teenager (years after it released, I hasten to add). As I eventually caught up to the age of its protagonists I continued to admire its writing, its cast, and its ideas. I gradually noticed the backlash (thanks, High Fidelity) though, to be fair, even at the time some critics panned it. And as I got older I began to understand some of the criticism. All of this seems to make it, as the film itself hits the rough age of its characters, wheezing into a quarter-life crisis as it hits its 35th anniversary today, it’s the ideal candidate for in-depth deep dive!

A big part of “The Big Chill” is its soundtrack. Here at Fandor, we celebrate the people who make some of our favorite soundtracks in our Score Auteur series. Watch our videos on Hans Zimmer, the late great Jóhann Jóhannson, and Trent Reznor. Finally, seal the deal with our video “The Art of the Needle Drop.” Your ears will thank us.

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