Back when there were video stores, there were always moves that you rented because nothing else looked good. When I was in junior high, these were often produced by a studio like Cannon, but as I got older, and my film taste diversified from random ass, often crappy action movies to random-asse crappy comedies (I never said my taste improved as I got older). One of those movies was Since You’ve Been Gone. This one sat on a shelf at the Blockbuster in Bayport for what seemed like eons in 1999, staring at me, begging me to rent it, only to be disappointed when I decided that watching Jawbreaker was a better idea.
But one day, when I happened upon the film again, I picked up the box and read what seemed to be a good equation for the type of movie I could spend some time with on a Saturday night: Lara Flynn Boyle + David Schwimmer + Teri Hatcher + High School Reunion = Decent Time. Hey, picking up a video on an off chance worked for Clerks, so why not go for this?
Believe it or not, while Since You’ve Been Gone is not Clerks, it’s still an entertaining little flick that is worth it when you are scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch. The most interesting piece of trivia about it is that it was directed by David Schwimmer, who at the time was at the high point of his Friends fame and it also has a fairly decent number of walk-ons and cameos by famous actors (or at least people that I can spot). While it is an ensemble, it basically follows three sets of friends through their high school reunion at a hotel in downtown Chicago (and props to the film’s writers for not setting the reunion at the actual high school).
Our first group is made up of Kevin (Philip Rayburn Smith), Molly (Joy Gregory), and Zane (Joey Slotnick), who are basically, I would say, the most ordinary of the entire cast. Kevin, a pediatrician, is the snarky cynic; Molly, his wife, is the outsider (she didn’t go to high school with Kevin); and Zane is their friend who achieved some marginal fame as a musician (although his most famous song is one that another artist sings). Kevin’s time at the reunion is an exploration of that cynicism–confronting an old rival, seeing an old flame, and receiving bad new from work make him increasingly bitter.
The second group is that of Holly (Heidi Stillman), Electra (Laura Eason), and Maria (Teri Hatcher). Holly survived a plane crash and is now a motivational speaker, while Electra is a walking calamity. Maria–whom they haven’t seen in years–is living in Europe and has become a “worldly” type, peppering her speech with snooty-sounding European phrases. So their plot is about the bullshit they create for themselves, although Electra’s is one of having more and more terrible things happening to her over the course of the night, including chipping her tooth on a nail that someone put in her slad and having her ass glued to a toilet seat.
Finally, there’s Duncan and Clay. Clay (Thom Cox) is and has been “crazy” and self-destructive and Duncan (David Catlin) is his best friend and de facto caretaker. Duncan is also the guy who is constantly shit upon by class president Rob, who is played by David Schwimmer in the douchiest way possible. Duncan, it’s discovered by the end of the film, is great at networking with people and Clay winds up hooking up with Grace (Lara Flynn Boyle), who is just as destructive as he is and spends the entire night playing brutal practical jokes on her former classmates.
Honestly, while the plots of the film are solid enough to carry the whole movie, the most memorable stuff is found int he various one-off jokes and random cameos (Jon Stewart, Jennifer Grey, and Molly Ringwald as “Claire,” to name a few). Years ago, I reviewed Since You’ve Been Gone for Bad Movie Night and noted that the film feels like it is the reunion of the graduating class that we see in Can’t Hardly Wait (which Since You’ve Been Gone actually predates by two months) and even though that review is more than a decade old, I still think that makes sense. Can’t Hardly Wait is very much like this–random characters with separate storylines that all exist within the same setting (Can’t Hardly Wait takes place at a massive graduation party). And while there are certainly better high school reunion movies than this one (Grosse Pointe Blank comes to mind), Since You’ve Been Gone is quite possibly one of the most realistic in its premise. After all, an event like a high school reunion doesn’t have a through storyline, and everyone brings their own lives–and often their own baggage–with them.
Schwimmer and writer Jeff Steinberg play that for laughs and serious where it needs to be but with the exception of Zane singing his song at the reunion (after Grace has destroyed all of the band’s instruments through a massive feedback), which provides background for a montage, they do a competent job of not laying any emotion on too thickly. Like I did a number of years ago, you’d probably only ever watch this if you happened to be browsing through Netflix and it caught your eye (it’s been available for streaming for years and I don’t think it’ll be gone anytime soon). But at least, I suspect, you’ll find it’s worth it.