I confess to being a sucker for the kind of melodrama that writer-director Alan Hrsuka serves up in Reunion: a soap opera disguised as a serious chamber drama in the tradition of Paddy Chayefsky, arguably the master of the American psycho-weepy. In other words, its cocky, know-it-all cynicism is often far too slick for its own good, and the frequently unwieldy dialogue sticks in the lesser character actors’ mouths like bad chaw, but the infrequent moments of stagey, over-reaching dialogue that hit home do so in a big way.
Reunion‘s plot is what Stephen King’s It would have been if you replaced Pennywise for the characters’ egos: a bunch of old college buddies that formed an Ayn Rand-type club in order to make the world a better place through self-promotion gather together after one of them dies. They’re not there to catch up but rather to squint at each other provocatively across a table, accuse each other of selling out, and cattily remark about either having seen or being the skeleton in somebody’s closet; a lot of them have slept with each other. Most importantly, their character types break down into shallow complementary psychological complexes: The doubtful fallen leader (Bret Cullen) clashes with the mouthy naysayer (Christopher McDonald, chewing up scenery like a possessed roto-rooter) while the milquetoast do-gooder (Josh Pais) plays foil to the equally dull burnout billionaire (David Thornton). These may not be the days of our lives but they are pretty satisfying.
To condemn a film that so proudly wears its ambition on its sleeves would be a shame: Who could say no to a film that outs a lesbian affair with a line like “She just had this way, like she was offering you her soul to swim around in”? Undoubtedly a lot of people but nevertheless, that kind of clunky, pseudo-intellectual schmaltz begs for attention and for the most part deserves it.