Film Review: Reunion

This reunion of old college friends gets a leaden treatment in what is effectively a one-act play posing as a film.

In Reunion, a group of friends from Yale reunite after 20 years to assess the damage. This juicy premise—contrasting present realities with undergrad dreams—has been famously explored in The Big Chill and Return of the Secaucus Seven and in novels galore, pulp and literary. However, despite some comic moments and sassy quips, this current outing about fortyish types who went to college in the ’80s feels leaden, maladroit and inauthentic.

Chief instigator is Jake (Brett Cullen), a successful trial lawyer, who stages the reunion in the conference room of his glitzy law firm. He is honoring the wishes of his wife Janie—the It girl of the group—who died ten years ago and requested the meeting for reasons never made clear, but presumably so Jake can disclose her big secret. Also on hand: Jake's much-younger girlfriend Averil (Zoe McClellan), who's got tough competition in the dead wife; a stereotypical Jewish doctor (Josh Pais) and his wife (wonderful stage actress Jessica Hecht, misused here); a mogul (David Thornton) with a private plane and a girlfriend called Minerva (Alice Evans), the name itself fair warning; a semi-recovering alcoholic (Jamey Sheridan) and his wife (Cynthia Stevenson), a disgruntled novelist. Throw in a bold-face journalist and a talent agent, both equally unpleasant, and you've got the main players. The only fun guy in this lineup is an aspiring actor working in security at Jake's posh firm, who hits on the talent agent to advance his career.

Janie has apparently requested that the friends recreate their "program" from their Yale "secret society" (think Skull and Bones). In a cross between confession and group therapy, the members take turns accounting for their lives and assessing one another, sometimes brutally. The weekend encounters ratchet up the intensity, old rivalries and longings, and the pressure mounts for Jake to spill why Janie wanted everyone to meet. But unless I missed something, why is never clarified and the big reveal is a dud. Hruska means to implicate the friends in some way for Janie's derailment, but fails to make the case, which renders the reunion a voyeuristic exercise. True, there are some telling quips: "You're just the same guy with a lot of toys” and the weird comment, "You'll have diapers, school admissions, chemo—all the things that make you feel alive." But despite some lovely music on the soundtrack—probably Brahms—this reunion remains static, essentially a filmed one-act play, and never delivers the goods.