Published April 1, 1997
Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion by David Mirkin seems to be a sort of female version of Dumb and Dumber about two dumb blondes, Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), who have lived together since high school, had no success to speak of, but return to their tenth reunion determined to pretend to their classmates that they are great successes. In fact, that they invented “Post-It” notes. The problem is, as it is with virtually all Hollywood satire (see Volcano below), that the movie falls for its satirical subjects. Romy and Michele are utter bubbleheads, but they are lovable and sympathetic when contrasted with the stuck up “A” group at high school, led by the snotty Christie Masters (Julie Campbell).
Plausibility is stretched to the breaking point already. The supposedly beautiful Christie can’t hold a candle the breathtakingly gorgeous Mira Sorvino—who, we are asked to believe, was a wallflower in high school and is a wallflower still, unable to get a decent boyfriend or even a date. At a club she admires one young man’s Armani suit, but when he tells her he’s a suit salesman she says: “Excuse me, I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood,” and hobbles away. But this only points up the larger implausibility born of the fact that Miss Sorvino radiates intelligence the way that Julia Roberts radiates stupidity. We just can’t believe in her as an airhead.
If you can get over that, and the sort of Hollywood smugness that invites us to admire the outrageousness of two such total moral and intellectual vacancies, the picture has some fun moments. The charm of Romy and Michele is that they don’t know they’re failures and are happy until the reunion comes along to make them think themselves inadequate. When they learn of the reunion from another outcast classmate, Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), they decide that “all we really need is, like, better jobs and boyfriends” in order not to look like such failures. But they cannot get either. Their attempt to lie is a pathetic failure, though it is not mined for its comic potential either, and is mixed up with a fight between the two of them over which is the cuter. “I’m the Mary, you’re the Rhoda,” says Romy. These are fighting words.
They agree to split up. This leads to a fantasy sequence in which Michele dreams that their pretense of success succeeds but the two of them remain estranged until the age of 98, when they still can’t agree on who is the Mary and who the Rhoda. The interesting thing is that the real [!] ending is just as fantastical as the fantasy. A high school geek called Sandy Frink (Allen Cumming) who always had a crush on Michele is now fabulously rich and descends from the clouds in his private helicopter. He reveals that he still loves Michele, performs for their delighted classmates a little ballet with both the girls to the music of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time” , helps them to humiliate Christie in revenge and then sweeps them away in his helicopter. In the end we find them running their own boutique in which Sandy has set them up.
There is a peculiarly Hollywoodish aspect to the humiliation of Christie, who is pregnant with her third child and keeps insisting that “I feel fulfilled” and “I’m happily married” and not “tied down” as all the more glamorous and sympathetic career women seem to suggest she should. One of these, whom Christie calls “a dried up, ball busting career woman,” says to her:
“That’s right, Christie; you keep telling yourself that.”
The last picture of the reunion is of Sandy’s helicopter’s prop wash blowing up Christie’s dress to reveal her pregnant belly. It should not be surprising to learn that pregnant women, along with Republicans, are among the diminishing number of those our popular culture finds it still permissible to ridicule.