Hey, problem-havers! It’s all going to be okay! Starting this month we will be adding a mailbag feature to On The Couch. Send me your personal problems and I’ll make it all better with not-at-all snarky advice AND a personalized film prescription. Psycho roommate? Marriage troubles? Unsure which of your children you like the best? I’m listening.
I haven’t yet seen Dysfunctional Friends, but I already know plenty about it. Old friends? Check. Untimely demise? Check. Reckoning with past mistakes, set against a feel good soundtrack? Busted. There is some strange alchemy that happens when you throw a reunion into a film. Even if you’re depicting a seriously imperfect history, it always comes out eye-rollingly nostalgic. For example, these five reunion scenarios, most of which take place under the grimmest of circumstances (suicide, rape, etc.) are still coated in starlight, fairy dust and other things not generally associated with bad times. So, there is no movie I can show you that will accurately portray a reunion. If you must venture into the past, try and do so with low expectations. Don’t blame me if it turns out you didn’t actually grow up in a sepia-tinted, perpetual summer. Still, you can always get drunk, turn out the lights and watch some movies where it is. Always. Even with Nazis.
For my own integrity, I’m referring to the Hayley Mills original. It’s obviously the better film and the one I grew up with. (But I still totally love the remake, featuring a pre-everything Lilo. I get misty during the mother-daughter fashion shoot every time.) But all that is beside the point: These parents should be in jail, right? Is joint custody such a headache?! If you discovered your long lost twin at summer camp, wouldn’t you call social services yourself?! Why would you want these monsters back together?! So they can continue to procreate and psychically damage further offspring?! I’m blowing my entire exclamation point ration on these two because they deserve it!!!!
I know. Somewhere along the line we all decided this movie was lame. It is schmaltzy as all get out, and shamelessly yanks our heartstrings with excessive Motown. But I still dig it. When first watching this movie in high school, I looked around at my buddies and realized I couldn’t wait until we were all embittered and aging. I’m just itching for my own ill-fated, life-changing, bridge-burning reunion. Ideally it wouldn’t begin with a beloved old friend committing brutal suicide. But for a long weekend at a lake house? I’ll think about it.
No, I’m not done destroying your childhood. Don’t worry; I’m also destroying my own. This captain goes down with her ship. This film, or any starring Robin Williams in the early 90s, is impossible not to love. A hardened, distant father reconnects with his childhood self and therefore his own, dear children. It’s warm, it’s whimsical, it’s literally a fairytale. That’s why this is the guiltiest film on the list. Recapturing your own youth will never be this magical, unless you too possessed the power of flight as a child. Also, never forget, this film marks the first on-screen appearance of She Who Must Not Be Named (But Who I Keep Naming).
My favorite kind of reunion is definitely the One Last Bust scenario. Remember the montage in The Usual Suspects, where they’re searching the city to round up that ragtag bunch of misfit toys? That sequence is more badass than Keyser Soze, himself. But I digress. It’s safe to say there is no more hardcore gang than a trio of Israeli Nazi hunters. And no one you’d rather see One Last Busted than a diabolical, death camp doctor. I’d like to imagine all war criminals were caught and punished with such a high-stakes, thrilling panache. But I’ve seen Nuremberg. Or rather, I’ve seen half of Nuremberg, and then woke up the next morning on the couch.
Here’s another example of reunions you might want to skip. If you accidentally accuse an innocent man of rape, thereby destroying both his and your own sister’s entire lives and chance at happiness, they may not be psyched when you come over for brunch. Even if you dress up and bring flowers and you’re super duper sorry. You should probably just stay home so they can pretend you don’t exist. And going forward, maybe just do a quick double check before you open your big mouth. When it comes to life-ruining proclamations, I’m a firm believer in measure twice, cut once. But that’s just me.
Kelsey Miller is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.