In 1995, there was Clueless; the high school, high fashion take on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel ‘Emma’, set in a social climate where plaid is essential and even gym class is colour co-ordinated. Then, two years later, there was Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, which is set in a social climate where any pattern goes as long as the outfit is made of PVC, trimmed with fluff and the overall look screams 80s porno set in space.
Featuring Lisa Kurdow and that one with the really deep voice, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is basically the tale of what would happen to Cher Horowitz and Donnie Davenport in their late twenties if they were both unsuccessful, broke and white. The narrative is your basic “two misfits, invited to their ten-year reunion, reflect on their current lives and how they were in high school” story. Set in the late-90s with flashbacks to their teenage years in the 80s, the soundtrack pulls from the best of both decades and is just as amazingly fun and cheesy as the plot.
When the opening credits to a film appear on clothing labels, gross-patterned fabrics and a zoom-in shot of Venice Beach with No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” playing over the top, you know you’re in for a good time. And that’s all this soundtrack is, really: a good time. Because why not? There are enough Platoons and Titanics in the world.
Romy and Michele are the kinda gals who make their own clothes, wear heels to the gym and go to clubs that exclusively play the two defining genres of the 90s – Eurodance (La Bouche – “Be My Lover”) and hip-hop remixes of old disco songs (N-Trance – “Staying Alive”) – and perform the single most defining act of the 90s: actions to lyrics dance routines.
In the moments when they’re not busting out rehearsed choreography, however, there’s also a pretty fitting original score by Steve Bartek that zips between minimal, ditzy arrangements, drawling guitar lines to accompany intense food binges in which tubes of cookie dough are consumed like baguettes, and an aggressive orchestral thwack that signifies the entrance of the cynical goth girl who chain smokes and tells everyone to fuck off.
The music is off the hook for the bits in their high school in 1987. There’s the slow slacker rock of The Smithereens “Blood And Roses” and sugary pop of Bow Wow Wow “I Want Candy”. There’s the smooth soft-rock of Wang Chung “Dance Hall Days” to the harder rock ‘n’ roll of Robert Palmer “Addicted To Love”. The soundtrack here is an era-defining teenage narrative: struggling with your body image, getting picked on by the popular crowd and lusting after the hottie football player who, in this case, also happens to be Fun Bobby in Friends. As the story always goes, Romy tries to dance with Fun Bobby at the high school prom. He says yes but then drives off with his crap girlfriend, because high school kids are mean and teenage boys are cunts. That’s why he gets Robert Palmer as his song; there’s no bigger smarmy wanker in 80s rock than Robert fucking Palmer. It’s okay though, because Romy and Michele are soooo over boys and they slow-dance together to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time”, the “I Believe I Can Fly” of 80s cry-dancing.
Back in the 90s, the ladies are about to road trip to Tucson for their reunion and Michele has made a mixtape of all their favourite 80s jams for the occasion. So, 20 minutes of the film is them singing along to “Footloose” (but not even remotely knowing any of the words beyond “FOOTLOOOOOSE!”) pulling faces at children to “Turning Japanese” and generally rocking serious Thelma and Louise vibes to “Karma Chameleon”.
When they arrive, the doors open and the chorus of “Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes floods out. Absolutely everybody is dressed in pastels looking like some kind of elaborate cake and it’s exactly like their high school prom OMG. That’s good news for fans of 80s pop/rock from The Pretenders, The Go-Go’s and Bananarama.
A musical call-back to their high school prom, Romy and Michele once again find themselves on the dance floor for “Time After Time”, only this time they’re accompanied by the class nerd-turned-millionaire who literally just arrived in a helicopter still brandishing his teenage hard-on for Michele. Anyway then all three of them collectively think “fuck all you sus bitches we’re rich and cool now, see ya” and fly out of the reunion on the aforementioned helicopter to the ostentatious banger that is Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth.”
Ridiculous as they may be with their impossibly loud attire and claiming mono was the best diet ever, Romy and Michele are loveable icons. Their story lays out the things that the success of your life is typically judged by: your job, your marital status, your income, versus the things that actually make you happy: living somewhere cool, dressing fly as fuck and having a bitching best friend. If you wanted to express that message with music, you’d have a hard time topping the collection of 90s club music and 80s pop/rock anthems brought together on this soundtrack.
Originally published on Noisey here.