1 item from 1999
A potentially great cast is not the same as an undeniably hot one, and even the dreamiest lineup of actors can't make up for a mediocre screenplay. But Take That might-be-great cast and combine it with a tired concept and corrosively irritating final script and you get "200 Cigarettes" by debut filmmaker Risa Bramon Garcia (a successful casting director), who has an altogether stagey approach to the ensemble comedy set on New Year's Eve 1981. It's not exactly the 1999 party film that distributor Paramount might have got rich on.
Current fortysomethings will appreciate the inclusion of rocker Elvis Costello in Garcia and screenwriter Shana Larsen's agenda, but the targeted younger audience is going to be dazed and confused by this retro adventure. A substantial limited release, "200 Cigarettes" is not destined to smoke the competition its opening weekend or inhale big profits in post-theatrical markets.
Nobody talks about martial law in Poland, the assassination of Sadat or even Princess Di's wedding in this sometimes genuine, but more often shallow look at the era. Jumping around from couples or pairs on their roundabout ways to a Manhattan party being held by Monica (Martha Plimpton), the movie is almost exclusively interested in sex and the quest for it.
Alas, "200 Cigarettes" makes one titanic miscalculation. The buildup to Monica's blowout takes 95% of the movie and the best laughs occur in the wrap-up montage where you find out who ended up in bed with whom. Other than snapshots taken by the ubiquitous Disco Cabbie (Dave Chapelle), there are no scenes of the party -- nada. And so effectively does this make the bulk of the film instantly forgettable that one is puzzled at what Garcia and crew thought they were up to.
Instead of seeing Janeane Garofalo's feisty East Village artist pump it up with a famous rock star, we are teased with the idea. The whole movie is a tease, personified best by Courtney Love's "I dare you to fuck me" challenge to whiny, hard-luck case Paul Rudd, who is Garofalo's former boyfriend. At least there's some rewarding sense of anticipation as these old friends circle around each other.
While Love and Rudd's subplot is easily the most involving, vying for the least rewarding is Christina Ricci and Gaby Hoffmann as a pair of Long Island cuties looking for the party and ending up with nicer-than-they-look punk rockers (Casey Affleck, Guillermo Diaz). Also not amounting to much is the pursuit of Nicole Parker's irritable, would-be femme fatale of a show-offy but cute bartender (Ben Affleck), with her man-hungry friend (Angela Featherstone) also on the hunt.
Old-as-the-hills jokes about sexy guys who are slimy yuppies, guys who can't please any woman and can't figure out why, girls who have meltdowns when nobody comes early to their party and klutzy virgins with the wrong guys are ultimately all the film has to offer. When the performers are inspired by the material -- Kate Hudson as a daffy mate to Jay Mohr's slick romeo, Plimpton as the frazzled hostess -- the film has its share of hilarious moments. But what about that party?
David Johansen and Costello make brief appearances to go along with the gargantuan song list, including cuts by Blondie, the Cars, Queen, Grace Jones and Nick Lowe. Soundtrack music and a couple of songs are supplied by Devo founders Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh.
Paramount Pictures and Lakeshore Entertainment present
in association with MTV Films and Dogstar Films
Director: Risa Bramon Garcia
Screenwriter: Shana Larsen
Producers: Betsy Beers, David Gale, Van Toffler
Director of photography: Frank Prinzi
Production designer: Ina Mayhew
Editor: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Costume designer: Susan Lyall
Music: Bob and Mark Mothersbaugh
Casting: Deborah Aquila, Sarah Halley Finn
Lucy: Courtney Love
Kevin: Paul Rudd
Cindy: Kate Hudson
Jack: Jay Mohr
Val: Christina Ricci
Stephie: Gaby Hoffman
Monica: Martha Plimpton
Eric: Brian McCardie
Disco Cabbie: Dave Chappelle
Bridget: Nicole Parker
Caitlyn: Angela Featherstone
Ellie: Janeane Garofalo
Running time -- 101 minutes
MPAA rating: R*
1 item from 1999
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