What Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion Teaches Us About Friendship Dynamics
Kristen Arnett in Conversation with Mychal Denzel Smith on Open Form
Welcome to Open Form, a new weekly film podcast hosted by award-winning writer Mychal Denzel Smith. Each week, a different author chooses a movie: a movie they love, a movie they hate, a movie they hate to love. Something nostalgic from their childhood. A brand-new obsession. Something they’ve been dying to talk about for ages and their friends are constantly annoyed by them bringing it up.
In this episode, Mychal talks to Kristen Arnett (With Teeth) about the 1997 film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, directed by David Mirkin and starring Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garofalo.
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From the episode:
Kristen Arnett: A big thing for me with this movie, which I think was another thing I didn’t understand about myself because I didn’t understand about how good it was, was their friendship dynamics. That’s the crux of the movie. That’s the romance of this movie, this kind of deeply intimate, caring friendship that these two women share with each other. And even at the movies’ end, it’s about their love for each other and how deeply they care and how their lives are so entwined. They’ll have romantic partners, but they are first and foremost each other’s most important person. And I hadn’t seen anything like that, I don’t think, where the friendship was like at the heart of all of it and not something romantic.
Mychal Denzel Smith: Right. That’s the great heartbreak in the movie, right? When they have that big blow-up fight, and they go their separate ways after finally arriving at the reunion. We see this dream sequence where Michele is imagining what all plays out like and then it flashes forward to seven years later, and they’re still in this fight, and she’s like, No, I’ve been unhappy all of this time and because I’ve been missing this person, this really important person, in my life. That’s the crux of it all. That’s what’s holding everything together is that they form this bond in high school, when like under the pressure of adolescence in which every teenager is just a horrible human being to other teenagers. And we see those dynamics playing out and they’re like, but we had each other. And that’s something that Michele has to remind Romy of later. You know, you’re saying that our lives were terrible or our lives are terrible now. But like, I’ve always had fun and part of her having fun was that she had Romy.
Kristen Arnett is the author of the New York Times-bestselling novel Mostly Dead Things and the story collection Felt in the Jaw. A queer writer based in Florida, she has written for The New York Times, Guernica, BuzzFeed, McSweeney’s, The Guardian, Salon, and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and a winner of the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction and the Coil Book Award.