David Mirkin's cult comedy, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, was released in the spring of 1997. Based on the play Ladies Room by Robin Schiff and starring Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow in the roles of Romy and Michele
respectively, the film's plot centres around two school friends who decide to concoct fake careers for themselves in order to impress their former classmates at their 10-year high school reunion.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion was released in the United States with an R rating, purely down to the fact that it features a handful of uses of strong language. Although the R rating denotes that the film is suitable for those 17 and
over, it does not exclude younger viewers so long as they are accompanied by an adult. The film is quite tame; it features no violence, has some occasional sexual humour and only a sprinkling of strong language, and the themes and situations in
the film arguably have some appeal to teenagers. As a result, it was submitted to the BBFC in the UK for a cinema rating with a request for a 12 rating from the distributors, which would allow high school teenagers to attend without the need for
adult accompaniment. However, the BBFC decreed that the film as submitted would receive a 15 certificate, so the film company chose to make cuts to secure a lower rating.
BBFC cuts for a 12 rated cinema release
Cut Scenes: Yearbook
The first cut made to the film occurred in Reel 1, where the so-called 'reject' character of Heather berates the nerdy Toby. After Toby asks Heather for a photograph and an interview for school yearbook, Heather tells Toby to "fuck
off". For a 12 rating, the BBFC simply stated:
"Replace Heather's line 'Toby, fuck off' with 'Toby, bug off'."
Cut Scenes: Prom
A similar cut to this recurring joke was made in Reel 2, after Toby comes between Heather and Sandy at the school prom, with Heather once again telling Toby to "fuck off" . A few moments later, a second cut was made to more
dialogue spoken by Heather when she runs into the mysterious cowboy Clarence. For a 12 rating, the BBFC cuts list stated:
"Remove scene where Heather says 'Okay, Toby, fuck off!'."
"Replace Heather's line 'Why don't you go fuck a sheep?' with 'Why don't you go wed a sheep?'."
Cut Scenes: Jaguar
The heaviest cuts were made in Reel 3 in a sequence where Romy visits a Jaguar dealership and tries to bargain with the salesman Ramon. Wishing to impress her classmates at the forthcoming reunion, Romy asks if she can borrow Ramon's car so
that both she and Michele can show up to the reunion in style. In return, Ramon demands a favour from Romy. In the uncut version, Romy and Ramon pretend to have sex in Ramon's office, much to the amusement of Ramon's co-workers who listen in
outside. Romy pretends that Ramon brings her to orgasm, but the sexual humour was too much for the BBFC, who demanded the following for a 12 rating:
"In 'WHEN HARRY MET SALLY' orgasm scene, remove the following sexual references:
(a) Ramon to Romy: "Man stallion, fill me with your giant love wand."
(b) Ramon to Romy: "Say something nice about my penis."
(c) Romy: "Oh Ramon, your penis is so powerful, I'm coming!"
Cut Scenes: Hotel
Later in the film, on the night of the school reunion, the UK cinema version made two cuts in Reel 4 to strong language spoken by Heather. The first cut was made to Heather's insult to Toby (where she once again tells her to "fuck
off"), with the second cut made to a further insult to Toby spoken by Heather when Heather is speaking to Romy. With regards to these scenes, the BBFC stated:
"When Heather enters hotel lobby, remove the line 'Fuck off!', and replace her later line 'I asked Toby dumbfuck,' with 'I asked Toby dumb-butt'."
Cut Scenes: Chat
More changes to strong language were also made later in the film in Reel 5. After former cheerleader Christie Masters publicly pokes fun at Romy and Michele at the reunion, the pair retreats to the sanctuary of a private room for a
life-affirming conversation. Romy makes a reference to herself and Michele being seen as "just a fucking joke". After concluding that they don't care about what their former classmates think of them, the girls change clothes and
decide to confront Christie in front of the reunion crowd, with Romy telling Christie, "we don't give a flying fuck what you think". For the UK cinema version the BBFC stated:
"Replace Romy's line 'Now we're just a fucking joke' with 'Now we're just a stupid joke' and when they enter disco, replace Romy's line 'Now we don't give a flying fuck what you think' with 'We don't give a flying frog what you
Curiously, the redubbing of Romy's line "Now we're just a fucking joke" appears to have been made to the R-rated version as well, at least on the home video versions. This could be a mistake, but in the opinion of Cutting Edge it
seems likely that this change was adopted for the US version in order to give more narrative weight to Romy's stinging line about "not giving a flying fuck", as it is the first time we hear Romy cursing strongly. Without supporting
evidence, however, it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions as to whether this change was also present in the American theatrical release.
Cut Scenes: Signing
Another cut to the UK cinema version was also made in Reel 5 when Toby asks Heather to sign her yearbook. Anticipating the usual harsh response from Heather, Toby asks Heather, "Please don't tell me to fuck off". For a 12 rating,
the BBFC stipulated:
"Replace Toby's line 'And please don't tell me to fuck off' with 'And please don't tell me to bug off'."
Cut Scenes: Cowboy
The final cut made to the UK's 12 version also occurred in Reel 5, when Heather is reunited with the cowboy Clarence. For a 12 rating in the UK, the BBFC stated:
"Replace Heather's line to cowboy 'If you fuck with me at all...' with 'If you mess with me at all...'"
After the necessary changes had been made, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion was passed 12 for a UK cinema release on August 18th 1997, with the BBFC noting that the film was:
"Passed '12' for moderate language and comic sexual references."
The film was one of a handful that were cut by the BBFC for bad language in 1997, but in spite of this the BBFC still received one complaint about the level of swearing in the film from a sole member of the British public.
Uncut for a 15 rated home video release
The US Blu-ray edition is uncut and Region Free
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion was later submitted for a home video classification in a version that restored the film's strong language (aside from the "stupid joke" line) and the sexual references in the dealership scene. It
was passed without cuts with a 15 rating on November 25th 1997 and later on February 5th 1999. This version of the film was released on VHS in the UK and later on DVD. At the time we went to print, a UK Blu-ray release was not available to
purchase but British fans wishing to own the film in high definition can import the American Blu-ray release. This edition is Region Free and will play on any Blu-ray player worldwide.
Cutting Edge Video, Season Four, Episode 52 Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Cutting Edge now in High Definition
All articles are original works compiled by Gavin Salkeld, with occasional help from a small team of researchers. Particular thanks are due to the BBFC for their diligent and helpful explanations of their interventions.