Favourite Films: Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

All right.

So let’s begin this series of blog posts with the aforementioned favourite film of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

I just adore this film. I will get to the content soon enough, but I wanted to highlight the fact that, like so many of our favourites of anything (be it a movie, book, song, or TV show) our love of the object has far more to do with the story around it, rather than the story inside of it. What do I mean?

Basically, I love Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, not because of its stellar writing, but because of what I was doing when I first watched it. This was my go-to sleepover movie from the time I was 10 years old and on. The film came out in 1997, and since I have a very distinct memory of picking up the brightly coloured VHS in a discount bin, it had to be 1998 by the time it made its way into my house. My parents often bought movies on discount at the Star Video or other chain store that was not Blockbuster. My mother, in particular, refused to watch anything brand new, since those movies were almost double the price to rent than the older releases. Even cheaper to just spend the money on the movie itself; it may be a dollar more, but hey, you got to keep it forever afterwards.

This means that, of course, we came home with so many bad movies. The stuff in the discount bin is not Oscar material, not even bestselling status, clearly. Sometimes these movies were still good enough, since bestselling status has a lot to do with promotion rather than actual worthiness, but that comment is me already getting into the nitty-gritty of movies and film criticism. Alas, this is the teacher in me coming out, rather than the ten year old girl who was just enchanted by this movie that was about women who loved one another so much that they lived together and dreamed of making their own fashion clothing line.

That is the basic plot of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion: Romy and Michele were bffs all through high school, where they were tormented for not being the popular girls. Their hair styles are plain, brown, and they don’t dress well (partly because one of them has a back brace and the other has a ‘bad’ nose). But suddenly, they leave their small town for NYC and they are now platinum blonde and make their own clothing from nylon and spandex and in so many bright colours. They still have problems–they can’t really pay rent and their jobs suck–but their friendship is so strong.

That friendship, I’m sure, appealed to me in several ways as a young kid. I was an only child, so having a best friend really was the closest thing I could experience to having a sister. My friend who watched this movie with me wasn’t an only child, but she was the only girl among boys, and so I think we both indulged in the femininity of the film, since the strength that the two of these leads got from one another was utterly captivating. I also see a latent Sapphic feeling to much of the film, which I wasn’t exactly blind to when I was 10, but didn’t have a language for. Romy and Michele, then, seemed like an ideal future life, one that I couldn’t help return to every single Saturday when my friend and I shared a sleeping space on the floor in my family room in front of the TV.

Not to mention the fact that their dreams jobs were fashion designer! I had high hopes at that age of doing the same. I loved making outfits for my dolls; I loved the Barbie fashion plate colouring set I had; and I regularly watched Fashion Television when I was younger. My mother was not into girly things, so I could only get this from Romy and Michele for some time. At ten or so, when I saw this, high school and puberty were far away, so this emphasis on fashion and make-up, and all things girly, definitely seemed like another world that I couldn’t wait to join.

When Romy and Michele go to their reunion, too, they have a complete “revenge” fantasy sequence with the popular girls. And oh, what bullied kid doesn’t also have that dream? This movie doesn’t simply let Romy and Michele get away with that bad revenge plot though, especially as they try to tell a lie about how successful they’ve become. [Possible spoilers coming]. They’re outted as frauds, and their “business woman” personas fall apart–but they are not rejected. Rather, they come back to the reunion as themselves, in bright clothing, and dance with a friend. They become themselves, rather than the ideal people the bullies teased them for not being, and they fully own themselves. [Spoilers over].

For a young kid, this was a fantastic message. I can see how it shaped me in so many ways, and why the colour pallet of the film often emerges in so many of my own works. Though I probably relate far more to the Janeane Garofalo character more (their chain smoking, sarcastic friend from high school who was often bullied too), I still have such a fond place in my heart for Romy and Michele.

I hope that if you decide to watch it too, you feel the same. Or at least, that you marvel at the dance sequence at the end to “Time After Time” especially since it ended up eating up half the film’s budget!


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