It’s a snowy February in the Hudson Valley right about now, and it’s got me in the mood for hot cocoa, cozy sweaters, and hanging out with my best gal pals. That’s right, it’s time to celebrate Galentine’s Day, 2021 style, which means snuggling up on the couch with your cat (and/or pooch, iguana, rat, etc.) and cheering on ya girls Thelma and Louise; Leslie and Ann; and Oprah and Gayle (real women, real friendship).
And although I am a married woman (not to mention a total sucker for any reason to get dolled up and enjoy my spouse’s company), and Valentine’s Day caters to me, I still think it’s important to challenge the Hallmark holiday by celebrating all types of love, whether that be under-represented romantic love or the love inspired by a deep friendship. So, this year, to honor the Parks and Recreation holiday, Galentine’s Day, I’ve been meditating on what I think may be the best film to watch on February 13th: Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
There have been an amazing collection of films added to the Galentine’s pantheon in the past few decades, for example: Bridesmaids, Mean Girls, and Booksmart to name some more classic fare, and: Whip It, Ghost World, and Thoroughbreds, if you’re jonesing for something more off the beaten path. If the Galentine’s spirit were to move me, I could write an article about each of these wonderful films, and then some, but for the sake of this article, they’re the Rhoda, and Romy and Michele is the Mary.
Debuting in 1997, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion stars Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow as Romy and Michele, two extremely hip, 28-year-old women who seemingly answer to nobody. But when faced with the daunting task of impressing their former classmates upon returning home for their 10 Year High School Reunion, they begin to question their life achievements post-high school. It becomes the first, concrete test of their friendship, and along the way, they learn the lessons of what’s truly important in life and how to continue to lift each other up in the face of haters. It’s practically a perfect film in every sense of the word (and it’s oh-so-very laugh-out-loud funny), so without further ado, here are my top 10 reasons, in no particular order, to watch Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion this February 13th.
‘10) It’s a clever deconstruction of the classic rom-com structure. At the very beginning of the film, Romy and Michele are hanging out in their apartment watching Pretty Woman, a film that they cop to having watched, “like, 36 times.” The first spoken lines of dialogue you hear (after No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” plays during the opening credits - need I say more?) come from the scene within Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts’ Vivian is denied access to shopping. The first line you are able to match to a visual is Vivian saying, “Look, I got money to spend in here.” To which the retailer replies, “I don’t think we have anything for you, you’re obviously in the wrong place.” Now, I have no confirmation for this, but I like to think that’s the film’s cheeky way of setting you up to watch something completely different from what’s come before; just a fun little nod indicating that if you’re expecting your typical rom-com fare, then you’re in the wrong place, no matter what currency you have to spend.
‘09) Romy fakes an orgasm, consensually! One of Romy and Michele’s checklist items to impress their former classmates is to roll on up in a sweet ride, and since Romy works at an auto retailer, she knows she can gain access to one...so long as she can sweet-talk Ramone, the attendant who’s in charge of the keys, who also just so happens to be crushing on Romy. So Romy and Ramone devise a plan where they just make it sound like they’re having sex in order to impress Ramone’s buddies, and Romy gets her keys. (And later still, Romy jokingly lies to Michele and claims she had to give a bunch of blowjobs to get the keys, and Michele doesn’t even bat an eye.) Consent and sex-positivity are pretty important in this film, which is, ya know, pretty darn cool.
‘08) The clothing is bomb. Whether Romy and Michele are in their high school flashbacks, their business suits, or Michele’s homemade fashions at the club, these ladies always look great. The clothing is a functioning narrative in the film to dictate status and self-worth (black clothing here represents a block of self-expression - which is a cool, juxtaposition to the typical read of black clothing equating to faculty). The clothing also becomes the source of empowerment for the gals at the end of the film, and when their high school foes make fun of them, a former classmate (Lisa Luder, who became an associate fashion editor at Vogue) congratulates them on their fashions, claiming, “all in all I’d have to say they’re really, not bad.” I disagree with Lisa; I think they’re fantastic.
‘07) For that matter, the lack of clothing is bomb. There’s a very funny scene where Michele is mid-makeout and is summoned to the reunion to receive an award, but something’s not right. “I couldn’t find my top,” she explains to her entire graduating class while making her acceptance speech. It’s a fun nod to a reveal to come, but ultimately, it’s just some grade-A comedy chops from Lisa Kudrow.
‘06) Janeane Garofalo. That’s really the entire entry, but I can go on. Garofalo plays fellow former classmate Heather Mooney, a misunderstood nerd who always had a thing for Alan Cumming’s Sandy Frink (sorry, Heather, you didn’t “have a thing,” you were very much in love - “there’s a difference”), who in turn always had a thing for Michele. So, clearly, the three gals were always going to be at odds. Post-graduation, Heather invented the quick-burning paper for Lady Fair cigarettes, for the gal on the go. She’s the perfect foil for Romy and Michele, and while a man is the inciting cause of their initial misunderstanding, the ladies come together when they realize they’ve been perpetuating their feud because of the societally-perpetuated-but-fictional social hierarchy of high school (which all the ladies break down by the end of the film). Garofalo is really firing on all cylinders here.
‘05) Justin Theroux plays a cowboy. That really is the entire entry.
‘04) Romy and Michele take the philosophy “fake it ‘till you make it” to its most logical conclusion, by intimating that in Michele’s dream-state she knows the formula for glue, strengthening the lie that, yes, these ladies did indeed invent Post-Its. Yes, the lie the gals choose to impress their former classmates is that they invented Post-Its, and the lie is discarded almost as quickly as a Post-It actually loses its stick. I just love that Michele manifests knowledge; it’s not only a fun bit, but it’s also a good reminder that if you put your mind to something, you probably can make it happen.
‘03) When Romy ends up putting down the “mean girls” at the reunion during the climax of the film, she doesn’t stoop to name-calling or digs at appearances. Her ultimate rebuke for her long-term nemesis, Christie Masters, is, “You’re a bad person, with an ugly heart, and we don’t give a flying fuck what you think.” In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to go for low hanging insults, which usually results in cheap pot-shots on appearance or capability, but Romy cuts more to the quick with calling out Christie’s ugly heart. Romy and Michele spend the first third of the film trying to get in shape for the reunion, but by the end of the film, they realize that, more than anything, the most important thing to exercise is your compassion.
‘02) “...and the soundtrack kicks fucking ass.” The movie both looks, and sounds, great, with the classic 80’s and 90’s soundtrack you’d expect from a film featuring a couple of gals returning to see the Sagebrush High Class of ‘87. There are a lot of great musical moments since Romy and Michele are frequent clubbers and don’t shy away from a spin class, but the best musical moments come from their senior prom (where they both come dressed as Madonna), and of course, the reunion. The choreographed dance to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” is ICONIC, and you’ve really got to see it to appreciate it. But the main takeaway is that “Time After Time” is most often used to signify the dedication shared between two people in a romantic partnership, but in Romy and Michele the song is about the two best gals because…
‘01) Galentine’s Day, duh! Every central conflict between Romy and Michele has nothing to do with a man (except for in an existential, who’s cuter, kind of way), and really their entire disagreement is born from a weak moment of distrust within the framework of societal pressure. Without the looming reunion, or the sudden need to prove themselves, Romy and Michele were living the high life, enjoying each other’s company, making killer clothing, and living right off the beach. Michele mentions that before they started scrutinizing their lives and each other, she thought they were having “a blast.” It wasn’t until they put their relationship under the scrutiny of others’ opinions that their union started to fall apart. And the same could be said for every other gal’s shortcomings within the film; if each lady was to not care about their social status in the “hierarchy,” they’d all be having a blast. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is the perfect Galentine’s Day flick to remind your gal pals that if you’re having fun, the hell with everyone else. This February 13th, make sure to tell the special ladies in your life you love ‘em, and...
“Have a Romy and Michele Day!”
Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.