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'Romy & Michele': A Class Act

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 25, 1997

Girl power drives "Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion" and drives it good. Like, I know "good’s" an adjective, ’kay? But we’re talking about Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), two adorable, Versace-adoring dingalings who are the Rodeo Drive equivalent of Beavis and Butt-head. I don’t mean these gals de SoCal are dirty-minded imbeciles, but their concerns are just as low-achievement. And they high-heel it through a delicious comedy about bitchiness, oneupwomanship and those emotional scars left from high school days.

Romy’s a cashier with chutzpah, lots of ideas and no boyfriend. Michele’s the pretty, unemployed one -- also sans lover. But no matter. For them, life’s about good dance clubs, great hair and excellent nails. It’s about speaking their own private language, with choice terms like "deludenoid" and "freakazoid." And it’s about watching videos together, and sobbing with relief when Julia Roberts finally gets to shop in "Pretty Woman."

When they get word of their 10th high school reunion, at Sagebrush High in Tucson, their idyllic existence is put into sobering perspective. The reunion questionnaire, which asks them to list all their "achievements," throws them into despair. What are they going to brag about to that erstwhile group of social snoots, led by bitch goddess Christie Matthews (Julia Campbell)? It’s time to borrow a sports car, dress to the nines and lie through their teeth about their fabulously successful lives.

The Sagebrush dance puts the girls face to face with Christie and her perfect life-after-high-school. They’re also confronted with Billy (Vincent Ventresca), the hunk that Christie won over Romy; Sandy Frink (Alan Cumming), the science nerd with the longtime crush on Michele, who has changed his act big time; and the wonderfully dour, chain-smoking Heather (Janeane Garafalo), who is Sagebrush’s gloomiest student of all time. Romy and Michele learn the hard way that, no matter how low you fall in the social order, there’s always someone lower and more miserable than you.

This sounds depressing, but it translates into sublime comedy. The movie, which Robin Schiff adapted from a two-gal play called "Ladies’ Room" (in which Kudrow appeared in the late 1980s), finds the hilarious underbelly to everything, no matter how painful the subject matter.

"Will you excuse me?" says Romy, trying delicately to fend off a fresh guy in a nightclub. "I cut my foot before. My shoe is filling up with blood."

One thing is clearer than acrylic nail polish: Kudrow (from "Friends") and Sorvino (the squeaky voiced hooker in Woody Allen’s "Mighty Aphrodite") were born for these roles. They meld beautifully together, like two wads of sugarless gum -- even when they’re fighting. "I’m the Mary, you’re Rhoda," says Michele when the friends get into a tiff on the road to Arizona. Between these two, there’s never a dull moment. And when Cyndi Lauper’s teary song, "Time After Time," brings them together for a friendship-restorative dance, the movie becomes something you would never have anticipated: genuinely touching.

ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION (R) — Contains sexual situations and profanity.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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