In her third outing, Stella (The Easy Hour, 2003, etc.) uses the high-school reunion as backdrop for a comedy about social misfits, thwarted ambitions and the ties that bind.
It’s just about time for 33-year-old bookstore clerk and thrift store maven Verity Presti’s 15-year reunion, to be held in the aptly named Chicago suburb of Downer’s Grove at summer’s end. As the reunion approaches, a loosely connected group of Verity’s high-school friends throws a series of dinner parties, where they reevaluate their choices and eye each other’s lives with some envy. Among them are Verity’s boyfriend, Charlie Brown, a long-time temp seeking a deeper calling; Will, a lonely, often angry karaoke jockey with an unrequited crush on Verity; Stan, Verity’s unrequited high-school crush, now a middle manager married to an unfulfilled haiku performance artist named Laurel; and Craig and Carolyn, high-school sweethearts with a high-school-aged child of their own. There’s mild suspense: Will Verity want to leave Charlie for Stan? Will Laurel want to have an affair with Charlie, who, she feels, supports her poetry more than Stan does? And, somewhat unrelatedly, what on earth will happen to Verity’s father, the lonely swinger dentist who is now dating a vampire lifestylist? In the end, the reunion is a bit of a red herring: Stella is more interested in allowing her odd but somewhat charming characters to play out a goofy, if ultimately redemptive, dance of humor and even of joy taken in the quirks and broken places in their lives. It’s no surprise that Verity, with her penchant for rescuing old furniture and photos of strangers, is the star here.
A comforting if sometimes cartoonish riff on Gen-X lives.