Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Big Chill (GBE 68)

In 1981, I met a girl.  Her name was Julia and she became my friend and partner in crime.  We dated off and on for several years and ultimately parted. But during our first summer together I experienced one of the stranger cases of Deja Vu ever.

Julia was a Biology major and she had received an internship at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, GA.  During this time, I was working in Atlanta and didn't have many weekends available.  Finally, I had a family wedding to go in Beaufort, SC, which is about 45 miles away from where she was.  I managed to convince my boss I needed to go and to save money I decided to camp at nearby State Park.

I ended up being joined on the trip by a couple of friends, Mike and Karl.  They really weren't much of a bother (except for when Mike almost caught my tent on fire).  The car trip had a couple of kinks in it, but we made it OK and we picked my lady up. We spent that night hitting the clubs in Savannah, dancing and hearing pretty good bands. We got back out to the Institute really late and Julia let us bunk there for the night.  The next morning we left Mike and Karl and headed across the Talmage bridge into South Carolina for the ceremony.

The wedding was in a small Baptist church in Yemassee, which is just outside of town.  The yellow brick of the building contrasting with the cracked parking lot.  Carol, the bride, was a cousin and she was as beautiful as all brides are.  The groom looked passably employable, but for the life of me I can't remember his name.  For some reason, the ushers seated us on the groom's side of the room about a third of the way down the aisle.  We didn't really care.

While we were at the reception, the bride's mother, mentioned that a movie had been shot in the area and that the church had been used for one of the scenes.  We thought that was kind of cool, but didn't really think too much of it.  We bid our good byes and I drove Julia back to Skidaway.  I picked up Mike and Karl and  headed back home.

A couple of months later, Julia ended her assignment and came back home.  She called me up one Friday night and said there was this new movie out: The Big Chill that she wanted to see. It looked pretty good and I already knew it had a killer soundtrack.  So, I had no problem.  We get to the theater and I see the poster.  The background looks a bit familiar.  Julia mentioned that it looked like Savannah, but she wasn't sure.  Popcorn and cokes were purchased and we settle in. 

If you aren't familiar with the movie, it opens with the body of a suicide victim (supposedly played by Kevin Bacon) being prepared for the funeral.  This is interspersed with a montage of the deceased's friends being notified (with appropriate shock and grief) and then gathering for the event.  All of them have had at least some success, but are having life struggles.  The first jarring scene is William Hurt pulling over and taking a large number of pills and then taking off in his Porsche up the same highway Julia and I had taken a few months before.  This was getting interesting.

The camera follows him as he turns into the cracked parking lot.  As it is panning up, a yellow brick church begins to fill the screen.  Uh, huh.  So this IS the movie Joan was talking about.  But the wildest part of came a few minutes later, during the Eulogy, when the Pastor was lamenting of tragedies.  The camera focused on one of the actresses (I think it was Mary Kay Place), and she is sitting almost exactly where we sat for the wedding.  Julia and looked at each other and kind of shuddered. We had no idea this was what it was about.

As we were riding home, Julia asked me what I thought about the contrast between the funeral of the movie and the wedding in real life.  I really didn't have any comment.  I just wrote it off as one of the coincidences that happen once in awhile. We both thought it was a good movie, though. 


  1. Very cool deja vu. Kinda. It's a little creepy to have been watching two people begin their new life in the same church movie makers envisioned the end of another's. Yeah, creepy.

  2. That was one of the best movies ever!
    I don't remember the church but I will definitely look for it next time I watch. That had to be a weird Deja Vu moment.

    There is a scene where the funeral party drives over a long arched bridge. It reminds me of a bridge near Sliver Springs Florida-where I have seen several long funeral processions cross.

    1. That is the Cat Island Bridge out to Lady's Island. The procession went out to St. Helena's, where there really is a nice sized cemetery. The tabby ruin they pass is the Chapel of Ease, which was used by the Gullah inhabitants for years.

  3. cool iS THAT!!!!!!! for a moment i thought you were gonna say YOU guys were in the picture in the back..hehe..but in a really were.

    Do you still see her? Julia?

    1. It's been about 10 years since I last talked with her. I have been thinking about her recently, because she lives south of New Orleans now.

  4. Creepy ... but then all deja vu experiences are creepy

  5. I believe we own that film. Still one of my favs