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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.09%
Worth A Look33.96%
Average: 30.19%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 20.75%

5 reviews, 23 user ratings

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Anniversary Party, The
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by Thom

"Fantastic and hip unblinking drama"
4 stars

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming indulge their personal and creative life in this story of a recently reunited couple whose marriage may not be as secure as they think it is. Joe and Sally (Cumming and Leigh) are celebrating their fifth year anniversary with their closest friends. Sally is an actress whose career is on a downswing while Joe's novels, wildly popular in his native England, are finally hitting with an American readership. Now Joe is writing and directing a film based on his novel and he has decided to not cast his wife in the lead role, choosing instead Hollywood starlet Skye Davidson (Gwyneth Paltrow). Sally is embarassed and infuriated but it gets worse. Joe has been gone for five months sowing his oats and decided to return, hoping to have children and settle down. Sally doesn't want kids, but she wants Joe so she pretends. Joe pretends he only wants Sally. They figure this out all over the course of a 24 hour party that ends with an ecstasy after party that melts away the lies to reveal the difficult, messy truth as well as the wonderful, secure bond of trusted friends.

The main story revolved around Joe and Sally's wedding but the story of their marriage is completely intertwined with the lives of their guests so we end up getting a glimpse of the "one big issue" that characterizes each of the other guests' lives. The Anniversary Party is an ensemble film and each of the actors, all of whom have impressive lead credits, walked on and off screen gracefully and made it feel like a real ensemble piece.
There is genuine chemistry among this real life group of friends and many moments of the film sparkle with the joy one feels with tried and true compatriots. The more "acted" scenes were the more dramatic, somber and tragic scenes. During this 115 minute confessional, everyone catches up to the precise point where everyone else is at not only in their lives but in their relationships to each other.

Obviously, Leigh and Cummings were very close to the material and they picked pretty, loveable actors to play the guests. It's the kind of movie where you find yourself caught up in the drama of fictional celebrities lives the way we get caught up in real celebrities lives. They just seem so much more mythic than us. Gwyneth Paltrow and Micheal Panes play a very charming Skye and Levi. Micheal Panes is just so much eye-candy and so subtle and knowing that I fell in love with him in every scene. Okay, its hard not to fall in love with Gwyneth either, she gives such good face and she's such a talented actress that its like you are getting your own private performance. The Anniversary Party lets us in on their most intimate moments and its like a gift to be charmed by the charming and flattered by the beautiful even if it is just on a screen and essentially an illusion. I'll pay 8.50 for that in lieu of the real thing.

Parker Posey was radiant in this film. I used to want her to avoid her smirky, smarmy winky delivery and try a more natural screen presence but it works so well for her and I think that's why I like her so much. I love Parker Posey. And when was the last time you saw Jennifer Beals or Phoebe Cates on screen? Cates has been hiding out on the stage acting in a couple of Chekov plays. I guess that's one way to get out of the Drop Dead Fred mentality and into something more "adult" and I've managed to miss Beals' recent performances but I'm going to have to start paying more attention.

The Anniversary Party is a great fantasy and I was actually a little bummed that I didn't have such a wonderful, accomplished, charming, vibrant, close knit group of friends. The moments were so real and the issues so common that the whole film just wraps around like you are supposed to be there. Kevin Kline is just wonderful to watch and the dance he does with his own daughter in the film is a playful, creative and inspiring. Its obvious all these actors have real depth and range. During one scene, Mac (John C. Reilly) who has brought his dailies (the unedited footage shot that day) to the party, realizes he is out of his depth trying to direct Sally Therrian. The tiny commentaries on the entertainment industry littered throughout the film further humanize the characters who all, in spite of a publicist or a coach, still have limitations and insecurities. An unequal playing field and introspection make juicy internal and interpersonal conflict.

Details make the difference and nothing was spared. Skye gives Joe the ecstasy in an envelope decorated with sparkly doo-dads and foil stars. It was a genuine aspect of rave and ecstasy culture. The entire ecstasy scene, if unstudied, was surprisingly and humorously realistic. In the midst of yet another crisis conversation, Joe says, "I have to just jump up and down right now, okay?" It's a moment that keeps the erratic blissed out artificial emotional state of a person under ecstasy tied into the real day to day problems of Joe's life and grounds what could have been just a fun scene into a tightly integrated whole story. This is typical of The Anniversary Party as a wholistic story, where each moment finds itself as a point on a circle rather than a moment in time. Nothing is moving towards solution, just an unweaving and simultaneous reweaving. Parker Posey really liked "that this film doesn't claim to have any answers about how to make things work between two people. There's nothing you can do about your emotion's or anyone else's." That even the two people at the party that were the most serene and "together", Sophia and Cal Gold (played by Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline) joined in the fun says something about the level of trust and depth of history this group of people have with each other. While the kids slept, Cal and Sophia wandered around attending to their friends hyper-emotional drama and eventually find time to curl up with each other under the stars and simply enjoy what is happening around them. Like being with your closest friends, no matter how much shit is going down, it stays inside the safety bubble to be dealt with. It makes it so much easier for your life to fall apart if there is a finite space wherein the dust can settle.

Cummings and Leigh as co-directors, bent the action seamlessly into shape without any apparent conflict. Gwyneth Paltrow had never had the experience of taking direction from two people but she thought "it was great because they (Cummings and Leigh) are both so smart and so in sync with each other's ideas."

This film comes off as a real labor of love and it's obvious everyone did their part to create a fun, emotional, truthful film that will be treasured by not only the cast but the audience as well. The Anniversary Party was filmed in only 19 days so the atmosphere, according to Posey, was "like camp" and like the film, the filming of the movie was "great fun and you felt like you could take any risk because you were surrounded by support", notes Mina Badie. So go, walk out the door, don't turn around now, you have an invitation to The Anniversary Party.

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originally posted: 06/15/01 04:37:22
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User Comments

9/12/05 zeitgeist Pretentious garbage made by, for, and about complete assholes 1 stars
6/14/05 Indrid Cold Some great acting, but wall-to-wall dialog is very hard to pull off. 3 stars
9/04/04 Em fantastic acting, change of direction midway through, unexpectedly touching 5 stars
11/03/03 joe smith awful. 1 stars
7/30/03 Jake Huge disappointment, wanted laughs but instead, got bad artistic CA nightmare of Cumming. 1 stars
6/01/03 francis An Hollywood introspective - but I'm just not interested in these screwed up people 3 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby Solid and affecting. Flawlessly actedd and consistently interesting. Plus, Posey's BOOBIES! 4 stars
2/02/03 Charles Tatum I was totally into this 5 stars
12/21/02 C3PO they let any old asshole on here? 4 stars
4/16/02 Phil M. Aficiando Watch twice; great work (acting and filming); actors got into it completely 5 stars
4/01/02 Stephen Watch it more than once - it's amazing the 2nd time and tops the 3rd. First - blah. 5 stars
2/22/02 Jason This movie was god-awful Hollywood drivel! 1 stars
2/19/02 Pete Hepburn My Thumb is Up 4 stars
1/25/02 INCUBATOR Beautiful argue scene on the mountain 4 stars
10/22/01 Will Hay superb casting, acting. powerful atmos, great camerawork 5 stars
10/08/01 Mark Davidson Started off interesting, then melted into a mess. Too in love with itself. Paltrow miscast 3 stars
10/02/01 Rutegar Dupree Strong performances from an interesting cast. Seamless camerawork. Great soundtrack. 5 stars
8/02/01 skye edward albee, it ain't. but entertaining, none-the-less. 3 stars
7/29/01 landa wsesw 5 stars
7/11/01 kaitong12 every aspect of a great movie came together in this film - emotion, entertainment, satire.. 5 stars
7/02/01 Thor-Leo A complete pleasure. Cumming trying to play a straight man was the only sour note. 4 stars
6/30/01 ***Super Girl*** yep 1 stars
6/24/01 jake a morality play. sad commentary on the need to use drugs to enjoy one another's company. 4 stars
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  08-Jun-2001 (R)



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