“Chantilly Lace” was an all-star, largely-improvised 1993 “friends through the years” dramedy memorable mainly for its cast. This Sundance indie — that was its filming location and the place it premiered — featured Talia Shire from the “Godfather” and “Rocky” movies, “Supergirl/City Slickers” star Helen Slater, Lindsay Crouse (“House of Games,” “Places in the Heart”), JoBeth Williams (“Poltergeist,” “The Big Chill”) and, as sisters, Jill Eikenberry (“L.A. Law”) and Ally Sheedy (“The Breakfast Club”).
Director Linda Yellen’s feature earned comparisons to “The Big Chill” and its antecedent, “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” as well as George Cukor’s “The Women.” No men figured directly in this story of Boomer BFFs hitting their 40s and facing everything that comes with that — failing relationships, career challenges and death, a younger, out-of-the-closet sister begging her older sibling to be the one to tell their parents that she’s gay.
“Chantilly Bridge” picks up their story 30 years later, with less improvisation, with a few new additions to the cast, but a film built on the same sorts of personal relationships and personal challenges, more tempered with age and more bland in the rendering.
Williams’ character Natalie, a film critic and daughter of an actress who was laid off and then dies in the original film, narrates this new tale as the surviving friends and her character’s younger sister (Patricia Richardson of TV’s “Home Improvement”) come to the Finger Lakes region of New York in mid winter to clean out her late mother’s home.
Sisters Val (Eikenberry) and Lizzie (Sheedy) still feud, this time over Lizzie being a no-show for this gathering (Facetime).
Hannah (Slater) comes, with her 30ish daughter (Naaji Sky Adzimah), named for Natalie, in tow.
The spiritual Maggie (Shire) is transitioning into hospice work. Rheza (Crouse) works with caged wildlife — wolves and an elk — at a seasonal zoo just down the road.
They gather, reminisce, share stories about first kisses and first sexual experiences and workplace issues, “#MeToo” among them, drink a bit and make “a toast” or two.
This one is “super stuck” at this stage in her life, that one has realized that “friendships,” like marriages, “take effort.”
Val? She’s come to a conclusion about the absent Lizzie.
“My sister’s such a bitch!”
A little mourning, grief over a forced “retirement,” and discussions of age and the life cycle of any job in which younger people come in and shift the attention away from their elders, relationships and having children — there’s a universality to the themes and subject matter, and a dull overfamiliarity to everyone’s “take” on each subject.
But as I say, “Chantilly Lace” is best-remembered for that cast. Yellen, then and now, has better producing credits (the Holocaust TV movie “Playing for Time”) than writing (“The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana,” “The Last Film Festival”) and directing (“The Simian Line”) ones. This film, more scripted than improvised, is all generalized banalities, the shared trials of being “at that age.”
At least we’re spared the “organ recital” here, no “my hip” or “my kidney” or “my back” laments for this crew. Even though that might have been funny.
Our nostalgic attachment to actresses who had their share of iconic roles decades ago is worth something. And “Chantilly Bridge” does a service in reminding us that Slater, Richardson, Shire, Cruise, Eikenberry, Sheedy and Williams are still around, still good at what they do and still employable.
But the middling material they have to work with does them no favors in this scenic, sentimental trip down memory lane, a film that lacks even the few fireworks — seen in flashbacks here — that the tepid “Chantilly Lace” provided.
Rating: unrated, adult themes, sex toy
Cast: Helen Slater, Patricia Richardson, Talia Shire, Lindsay Crouse, Jill Eikenberry, Naaji Sky Adzimah, Ally Sheedy and JoBeth Williams.
Credits: Directed by Linda Yellen, scripted by Michael Leeds and Linda Yellen. A Quiver release.
Running time: 1:26