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Charlie's Party
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by Erik Childress

"It’s My Party And I’ll Screw If I Want To. Screw If I Want To."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 CINEVEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: I am approaching my 30th birthday. And as some kind of cruel reminder, my job has reminded me at least once a year that the milestone is approaching. It wouldn’t be hard to research the films that center around a character who has just entered their third decade or is about to or has had a conversation about it when they’re 25. Thankfully, my memory hasn’t gone just yet, but the research would be necessary since most of those films just aren’t all that memorable. That character in Charlie’s Party doesn’t just want to refuse to blow out that thirtieth candle, but seems to want to turn back the clock to a time when “key parties” we’re the rage for bored suburbanites. They are now called “cell phone parties”, an indication of our evolvement from house calls to booty calls, but the justification for them hasn’t changed that much.

Charlie (Alissia Miller) wants to do something drastic in the final days of her twenties, a period that has seen her go from being a successful VJ to playing third fiddle on the Home Shopping Network; third to the host and the trinkets they are selling. Her plan for the swap party includes inviting Zoe Fields (Kim Director), a popular actress whom she discovers her boyfriend Dylan (Chris Tardio) once had relations with. Out of desperation to fill her rather lite suaree, she turns to her college buddies, each having their own sexual issues.

Sarah (Sabrina Lloyd) likely has more to be concerned about her life path than Charlie. She can’t decide between writing a novel or for men’s magazines. What she would know about the latter is questionable considering the man in her life, Tom (Mark H. Dold) is a few rungs higher than a Class-A jerk. His justification for misdeeds against her prescribes to the Eddie Murphy Raw theory of what certain women should put on their W-2’s. Jane (Nancy Anne Ridder) is a closet lesbian and Nick (Eron Otcasek) once spent a few minutes of experimental passion with Charlie back in their college days. Both still carry a torch for her.

The setup for the film is rather bland and has trouble making up its mind rather it wants to be a character study of two women or an ensemble piece. Once we make it to the party, which seems like anything but with the slight turnout, the conversation thankfully gets lively at dinner. Somewhere in your life you have heard or perhaps even spoken the facts or myths, depending on who you believe (men need sex but women decide it, humans aren’t meant to be monogamous creatures, etc…) but the actors make it meaningful. Since they are wrapped up in their own insecurities and unsure about the consequences of what may ever transpire, none of them can bask in the potential of guilt-free sex and sure things. They seem to know each other so well that a game of 20 questions would just be a recap and a roll in the Freudian hay would be nothing more than just another release of fluids and anger.

The idea of whatever freshness you could muster out of sleeping with someone else with permission couldn’t possibly measure to thinking about how the one you claim to love may be feeling less guilty about doing the same. As this circle of friends let their guard down and reveal their fantasies, we do sense the void that has hollowed some of them out. Charlie is clearly doing her best in putting up a front but Sarah is ready to confront everything that’s failing and Sabrina Lloyd turns in a sad, at times painful, performance. It’s like watching a broken waterfall; something we know is beautiful that desperately wants and needs to let the waterworks fly so it can resemble the existence that it once felt. When she informs everyone that Nick doesn’t need to flirt because “he attracts people by being kind and honest”, it’s a strikingly touching moment that makes us wish the two of them would have had time to explore it instead of just being a huffy (but solid) stage exit.

There’s good stuff in the film which hits some very funny marks (especially the admission of whom one character would sleep with if their back was up against a same-sex wall) and it also knows how sexiness should be a stimuli for the characters and not just the audience. Still, Charlie’s Party should have taken a cue from its own advice and worked on its intimacy. By trying to go more Big Chill or Beautiful Girls instead of a more pitiable Romy & Michele, our concern is spread too thin so when the film just ends with barely a final act to speak of, we feel cheated on and, ironically, our only refuge is to go look for those old movies from our past.

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originally posted: 06/20/05 10:12:27
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/19/05 Jhan Stevens A very likeable film with a unique twist on "cell" parties 4 stars
6/16/05 Martha Herbert razorsharp wit and insightful observations about relationships,love,etc 5 stars
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Directed by
  Catherine Cahn

Written by
  Catherine Cahn

  Sabrina Lloyd
  Mark Dold
  Eron Otcasek
  Ashway Lawver
  Alissia Miller
  Chris Tardio

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