5 reasons why romy and michele’s high school reunion is a low key feminist classic
As the film celebrates its 20th anniversary, we reflect on the importance of the cult classic.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion wasn't a huge hit when it premiered in April 1997, but the cute comedy starring Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino has since become a true cult classic. As the film celebrates its 20th anniversary, Romy and Michele now feels subtly feminist and cleverly empowering in retrospect. Here are five reasons why.
1. It's a film about female friendship.
When the film begins, our title duo don't have a lot. Michele (Kudrow) is unemployed, Romy (Sorvino) has a dead-end job at a car dealership, and both girls are single. But hat they do have, however, is each other. The dream sequence where they fall out is actually more of a nightmare. And when Michele hooks up with Sandy (played by Alan Cumming) at the end of their high school reunion, they leave with Romy in tow — because for these two women, love doesn't trump friendship. Along the way, Romy and Michelle build an unexpected bond with Janeane Garofalo's neurotic, scene-stealing Heather. How many Hollywood films pivot on the fortunes of two completely likable female characters — then give the juiciest supporting role to another woman? Unsurprisingly, the film's script is the work of a female screenwriter, Robin Schiff.
2. And a film about self-acceptance.
When the pair hear about their high school reunion, Romy is worried their lives won't be impressive enough for their former classmates. So they hatch a plan to pose as the super- successful inventors of Post-It notes. But the plan doesn't quite come off — Heather happens to have learned about the inventor of Post-It notes at business school and points out that it wasn't Romy. This prompts a realization from Michele. She tells Romy she was actually happy with the pair's lives before the high school reunion brought out their dormant insecurities and the pair re-enter the party as their genuine, glitzy, fun-loving selves. Their interpretive dance to Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time isn't just hilarious, it's a joyous exercise in self-empowerment.
3. And also, self-expression.
It's no coincidence that Romy and Michele love to design and make their own clothes. This is a film that understands fashion isn't just about style and status — it's also about showing the world who we are on the inside. When a former classmate who works at Vogue says of their outfits, "All in all I'd have to say they're... not bad," you'll want to let out a very loud YASSSSS! And it's also no coincidence that we see Romy and Michele attending their high school prom dressed like Madonna — because when they were growing up, she was pop culture's ultimate boss woman.
4. It's full of terrific lines.
Like most cult movies, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is super-quotable. "I'm the Mary, and you're the Rhoda" — a knowing reference to two characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show — has become a camp classic. "Um, I invented Post-Its," is obviously deadpan perfection, too. But other Romy and Michele one-liners are memorable because they wrap the film's message of self-love in a hilarious package. When the pair look back on their high school years and Michele tells Romy, "You know, even though I had to wear that stupid back brace and you were kind of fat, we were still totally cutting edge," it's a witty and totally heartwarming moment.
5. Oh, and last but not least, there's this moment where Romy totally owns a slightly creepy guy.
No one should ever have to fake an orgasm — but if you can get ahead by faking one on your own terms, well, why not? And Mira Sorvino's comic timing is fire here.
Text Nick Levine