Lessons We Can Learn: Romy & Michele's High School Reunion

Pin It

There are many faux pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from this daffy 90s comedy, writes Jack Sunnucks. Accepting one's shortcomings, for example, is "like totally" the key to eternal happiness

When you were a teenager, Romy and Michele’s antics in their titular 1997 film were unimaginable. Who would ever attend a school reunion and lie through their teeth about everything they’d achieved thus far? Only total losers. Now, however, the brilliant humour of the film is given poignancy by the fact that you too, have achieved nothing and live in a shared flat with a best friend you probably hate. The only difference is that you wear hideous chokers and platforms ironically, whilst Romy White and Michele Weinberger totally loved them. So, in fact, you’re even worse off than them. If only we’d known what hell adulthood held!

The film however offers you salvation – not until Romy [Lisa Kudrow] and Michele [Mira Sorvino] really accept who they are do they find happiness, and yes, success. The brilliant lie which gives the film it’s premise (that they are in fact successful) causes them all sorts of problems – not least that they fall out with each other, thereby losing what they hold most dear. Here are some lessons in acceptance from the ladies in lamé.

1. Lying is a brilliant idea
When grown up geek Heather walks into Romy’s bank and declares there’s a ten-year school reunion back in Tucson, the girls are initially against the idea. That’s until Romy announces: “We can go to the reunion and just pretend to be successful.” This is a great idea – you’ve got to act rich to get rich! In the mode of the girls, rustle up a businesswoman-looking suit, loudly order a “businesswoman’s” special and say you invented something. Like Post-Its, as they do. Perhaps the modern equivalent of this would be saying you work in tech – no one knows what that is either so they won’t call you out. Tech billionaires are also notably worthy, so no one will call you out for riding the bus either.

2. ...Until it’s not
Obviously, the truth will always out, whether you’ve rented a Jaguar or not. When Heather reveals their lie (because she went to business school so actually knows who invented Post-Its), the girls are shown to be a SHAM! Their lie, however, has driven them apart, with Michele dreaming that the pair have not in fact spoken for 70 years! How a lie can tear apart friends! It’s only when they come clean and realise their lives were brilliant just the way they were that the wound is healed and they go back to being besties. The lesson here is JUST DON’T LIE. Or maybe it’s to learn from your mistakes, or realise how lucky you are with what you’ve got.

3. Have fun with fashion!
Aside from their sterling friendship, all Romy and Michele have are clothes – rails and rails of them which look like they were filched from the Patricia Field NY store circa 1996. It’s a lot of marabou, questionable lamé and outré platforms with weirdly shaped heels (which they wear to power-walk on treadmills at the gym). It’s also in fashion that they find their salvation, opening their namesake boutique on plummy Rodeo drive after their triumph at the reunion, and give a makeover to the downtrodden goth businesswoman Heather. Basically, fashion is fabulous and will help you become who you want to be.

4. Being important is nice, but it’s nice to be important
Romy and Michele give rise to the question – do we ever actually leave high school? Is bitching and backstabbing confined to the cafeteria? In a word: sort of (oof). For those that have a good time at school (popular people), real life is just an extension of those glory years, as evidenced by the evil cheerleader Christie and her horrid beau Billy. Happily, however, if you have a really good time at school it’s downhill from there – see Billy being a no-good alcoholic and Christie still being a total biatch! As Romy affirms – Christie is just “A bad person with an ugly heart.”

5. Geeks always turn out to be the most successful
There’s a study which says due to their emotional intelligence, goths are more likely to go on to have successful and fulfilling careers. This is aptly realised by Heather, as portrayed by Jeanne Garofolo, who is the only one from their high school to have actually made something of herself, at least when the movie begins. Aside from getting to wear black the whole movie (cool and trendy), Heather also gets to do it with the totally dreamy Justin Theroux, who plays a cowboy. I mean! Lesson is, stick to your antisocial ways and eventually some handsome stranger will declare their undying love for you. Hopefully.

5. Friendship is more important than external signs of success
Romy and Michele start the film thinking they’re losers who’ve achieved nothing, and on paper this is true – all they’ve accumulated are feather boas. Life is so much more than paper, however! They were, in fact, always happy because they had each other, forever – as well as banging bods from only eating gummy bears, jelly beans and candy corn. They’re only shamed into thinking they’ve got nothing when they start comparing themselves to others, but when it comes down to it they can’t live without each other, and the real losers: not them but tight faced Christie and all the other popular types. The girls are whisked away by Sandy Frink, their now billionaire classmate, because their beauty lies in their unconventional world view and kind hearts. Here’s the final lesson – be yourself, because there’s someone who’ll love you, whether it’s a Romy, a Michele, or a Sandy Frink.