Friends The Reunion review: A nostalgia trip meant only for die hard fans
Friends The Reunion review: The long-awaited get-together is here and it is like sitting down for a chat with old pals. Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry revisit gentle memories.
There has never been a stronger demand for a reunion of any television show or movie's cast than the one for Friends. But then, few television shows or movies have seen such success either. At one point in the reunion episode, host James Corden tells the six central cast members that their show has been watched more than 100 billion times across all platforms. The number sets their head spinning.
With so many people still in love with the show, there was a lot that could have gone wrong. Remember what happened with Joey, the short-lived spin-off centred around Matt LeBlanc's character? It is understandable why HBO Max would not have wanted to risk it all by exploring new avenues in the stories of Rachel Green, Ross Geller, Chandler Bing, Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay and Joey Tribbianni. Instead, it is safer to simply get Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and LeBlanc to sit on the same orange couch and revisit a few episodes from the show's original run. They know everyone loves Friends reruns. We have watched it 100 billion times.
Creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane recite the story of how each actor was found and brought on board. How David's voice inspired Ross's character, how Lisa was spotted on another show she was doing, how Matt was the perfect combination of good looks and comedic timing, how Courteney preferred being Monica over Rachel; and more interesting stories that you are already aware of thanks to scores of BuzzFeed articles and WatchMojo videos.
Despite the lost opportunity of taking a more creative, perhaps even shocking approach, the end result still doesn't feel as disappointing as I had expected. More than the minds behind the episode, the credit mostly just goes to the six stars.
The episode is essentially just a long ballad in their honour. The first scene shows them, now in their 50s, walking back on the recreated sets, with tears in their eyes almost instantly. They touch the couches, share hugs, and revisit memories they shared on the sets in their 20s. The initial hugs may seem awkward -- Lisa seems even less like Phoebe when you see her in crisp black shirt and without her usual Luna Lovegood air, Matthew seems to be trying to speak as little as possible. But as soon as David breaks out the trivia game, Courteney gets her Monica face on, Lisa screams as a bug flies in her hair and Matthew finds a sarcastic joke to wedge in, you know you are back in the 90s again.
They read through their scenes, play a blooper reel, share stories of broken shoulders and how Ben Stiller and a duck cracked everyone up. Of course, all of this will only make sense if you have been a fan of the show. Multiple episodes and major plot lines are revisited as the creators and actors look back. What difference would it make to a GenZ, Riverdale lover how Monica and Chandler's romance was completely based on audience reaction? The reunion episode has a plethora of stories to share but only for eager ears.
They cast is supplemented by countless celebrity cameos and thankfully, that's just what they are. No one tries to be the star, except Lady Gaga with her rendition of Smelly Cat, but even she manages to soften your heart as she thanks Lisa for what she has represented for the kids who just couldn't 'fit in'. Major stars such as Justin Bieber, Cara Delevigne and Cindy Crawford make small appearances and even those who joined in through video messages -- Reese Witherspoon, David Beckham, Kit Harrington -- appear to be such ardent fans of the show that their testimonies do not seem scripted.
Crane says at one point that the idea for Friends came to him when he and Marta were in their 20s, living in New York. He said that that is the time in one's life when most of us live alone and away from our families. Our friends are all we have. That is essentially 'Friends in one line,' he said.
For years that's what it has also meant for so many people around the world. I know people, much like what BTS said in their testimonial, who have learnt English watching Friends on TV; and others who have gotten through breakups with its help. It left some with the hopeless belief that they'd one day find six buddies who'd be their friends for 10 years. Friends was a show brimming with hope, living in an almost unreal, sometimes even homophobic world. But for years, we loved it with all our heart. The reunion episode is soft, cozy and full of nostalgia, like a fireside chat with old friends you had long left behind.