|By Mira Harber
Is there anything new under the sun? Haven’t I seen this
before, but better? These were the questions plaguing me as I sat through
The Anniversary Party.
A group of so-called ‘friends’ + business manager + ‘next-door
neighbors from hell’ all assemble to celebrate the 6th wedding anniversary
of Joe & Sally (Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh). The stars of
the movie (see previous sentence) also co-wrote and co-directed the film.
They put a number of their friends to work, playing characters that we,
the audience, imagine them to be.
The film is about a bunch of artistic; Hollywood types
- actors, writers, musicians, photographer, agents - with the lines between
reality and fiction deliberately blurred.
Sally and Joe were separated during the past year for
about six months, due to his infidelity, drug use, her insecurities, and
many of the other usual suspects. They are back together now, stronger
than ever, and ready to start a family. Joe is a famous writer/soon to
be director. Sally is a famous leading lady, in her mid-thirties,
who seems to have lost her zest for life. She longs for a child, but is
considered too old (by about ten years) by her writer/director husband,
to play a character based on herself, in a film he wrote and is to direct.
Kevin Kline plays an aging actor who may now be too long-in-the-tooth
to play a romantic lead. He’s narcissistic and self-absorbed. His real-life
wife (Phoebe Cates), plays an actress who gave it all up to be a mother
to their young children (who play their young children in the film). She
appears to be the model wife and mother until, in a funny moment in the
film, she says to Sally that one of the problems with being a mother is
that “you can’t do yourself in, kids rob you of that option”.
A glamorous starlet Skye (Gwenyth Paltrow) who is handsomely
overpaid for her work may not be quite the flake she appears to be. She
bewitches a musician (Michael Panes), a Peter Sellers look-a-like. He does
a pretty credible imitation of Sellers in The Magic Christian. Jennifer
Beals plays a photographer and best friend of Joe’s who is overly interested
and involved with this philandering, bi-sexual husband.
John C. Reilly plays the unhappy director of a film that
Sally is currently shooting. He is unhappy over her uninspired performance
in what is supposed to be a comedy. His anorexic, neurotic to the
nth degree, wife is played to distraction by Jane Adams. The next-door
neighbors have been invited to hopefully avoid a lawsuit over Otis, the
always barking dog, beloved by Joe.
This is an independent film, so Parker Posey, queen of
the indies, plays a small role as wife to their really intense, over-the-top
business manager (John B. Hickey). If you want to see a really un-fun game
of Charades, here it is.
A long, long night with all of these characters and what
will happen? The usual of course soul searching, conscious raising, chest
bearing blah, blah, but instead of alcohol (see Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Woolf? for a much better rendition of a long night with uncomfortable truths
brought to the surface) Ecstasy is the drug of choice. Sex and drugs, and
it wasn’t my fault, it was the drugs rationale in the morning. At one soul-bearing
moment in the film Joe screams at Sally “It’s not a Rage, it’s a RAVE,
This is supposed to feel like a birds-eye view into the
lives of the rich and famous, and yes Johnny, they have problems too!!
Awkward silences, inappropriate comments and secretive gropings - there’s
a party for you!!
The house they live in is spectacular, and is as much
a character as any of the so-called live actors in this film. For some
people this voyeuristic view into these pampered lives will be considered
time well spent. For others (I’m in this school) the film is a waste of
time, even on a lazy summer afternoon. Go rent Who’s Afraid of Virginia