Chillin' with the Seven
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 02/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you know only one thing about "The Return of the Seacaucus 7," you've probably heard that this obscure little $40,000 home movie from 1980 was shamelessly ripped off three years later by Lawrence Kasdan's hit "The Big Chill." Both movies tell the story of a gang of former 60's activists who reunite for a long weekend, but "Chill," with its bigger budget, name actors and excellent soundtrack, became a cultural touchstone. "Seacaucus," on the other hand, has remained largely unseen for 25 years and, though it marked screenwriter John Sayles' directorial debut, it only recently emerged on DVD.
On the disk's commentary track, Sayles rightly puts to rest "Chill" comparisons, pointing out that the two films have the same format but are intrinsically different. Unlike the affluent yuppies of "Chill," Sayles' characters are crucially younger and less successful; overeducated and underemployed, they're blinking into the headlights of both the Reagan era and their 30's, which are rapidly approaching.Shot on weekends with money Sayles earned writing Roger Corman horror movies ("Pirhanna" and "Alligator"), "Seacaucus" is a rough gem. His amateur cast isn't too comfortable in front of a camera and their lines feel stagey, but Sayles' writing was good even then. Despite its occasional clunkiness, this early homegrown film paved the way for much better later efforts, like "Matewan," "The Secret of Roan Inish" and the truly great "Lone Star.""
The Warmth that the Big Chill Left Out in the Cold
Clare Quilty | 07/01/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"John Sayles is a wonderful storyteller, especially on film, and knows how to put together an ensemble of actors who can convey the spirit of his characters. "Return of the Secaucus 7" is far from a perfect movie and is really rough around the edges, but it is my favorite movie about a group of boomers coming together and affirming why they like or at least feel safe around one another and keep the connection. There is no cool nostalgic soundtrack just a ukalele and a barroom trio. The humor is sublte and charming. The plot focuses on what is rather than what was. It is as intimate as helping polish off as many eggs as possible around the small formica table and hoping that Katie and Mike invite you to stay one more night.
That is where Sayles came from and check out other movies like "Brother from Another Planet" and "Lone Star" to see where he is going as a very independent filmmaker."
My First Indie Film
R. M. Ettinger | Cleveland Heights, OH USA | 05/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Return of the Secaucus 7" was my first. Independent film, that is. It is not an independent film the way you'd consider indie films of today. VERY low budget - and it shows, though that's not a bad thing. Overall, this film has held up well - which is pretty good 23 yrs later! Sayles did a great job w/the writing and directing - and even his acting is fine.Released maybe two years ahead of 'The Big Chill', which I found cold, lifeless and built around a soundtrack - not a script. 'Secaucus 7' had a much more intimate feel - and lower key humor, but way more my style (though I didn't find myself as amused as I was @ 17 when I orignally saw it).The cast is understated and good. It's amazing that more of them have not gone on to do more films of higher (David Strathairn to numerous things, Gordon Clapp to NYPD Blue', Adam LeFevre to many commercials). There is no one stronger character - all have their moments.I do believe, there is at least one scene cut from the restoration comedy play they attend, but other than that, the movie is intact. One original song by Adam LeFevre ("Mean to Me") is actually very good.The extras are sparse - w/just commentary from John Sayles and Maggie Renzi. Rent or buy it."
Dated but fun
Alan A. Elsner | Washington DC | 09/06/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Could this much-imitated movie (it inspired "The Big Chill") already be almost 30 years old?
This low-budget entry from 1980 ushered in the directorial career of John Sayles. It's still fun if a little dated. In fact, it's almost a time capsule.
A group of friends in their late twenties and early thirties return to New Hampshire for a weekend of nostalgia and coupling. They seem so quaint with their 1970s bodies, short shorts and ernest talkiness. The dialogue seems a bit theatrical and nothing much happens over the weekend but you get to know the different characters and their hopes and fears.
It's almost painful watching these baby boomers as they began to tackle, ever so tentatively, the challenges of adulthood. And since this is a generation -- my generation -- that was notorious for trying to hang on to its youth, their efforts don't seem totally convincing.
They seem very sweet, these characters. One wonders what happened to them."