Best of
lMovie Review
"The Anniversary Party"
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, you idiot.”

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 Woolf instead.


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