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|Index||125 reviews in total|
"The Anniversary Party" provides you with the perfect opportunity to watch
the kind of party you'd want to be invited to, but not necessarily
This was a great film with numerous funny, dramatic, awkward, and stressful moments. It embraced many universal points of conflict in relationships--be it with a spouse, a neighbor, a boss, a co-worker--and allowed you, as a viewer, to watch all of the varying (and often hilarious) perspectives. And then it showed you all of those same perspectives on ecstasy.
The film maintains a large cast of talented people and uses them well. I found myself doubled over in laughter for at least half of the movie--Alan "Uppin" Cumming, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Adams, Parker Posey, John Benjamin Hickey, John C. Reilly, Michael Panes, and the entire Cates-Kline family gave a lot of comedy to their characters, complimenting the difficult and trying moments that were weaved throughout the film.
It was shocking to see the number of negative reviews in this index. I think if you are between the ages of 25-49, it would be hard not to relate to the social satire that is portrayed brilliantly in this film. It is thoroughly enjoyable.****
If you like a slow, carefully developed, beautifully acted, funny and articulate piece of parlor theater, complete with a heart-wrenching scene or three demonstrating alienation between neighbors and genuine intimacy among friends, this is for you. If not, not. With its two deaths or near-deaths, this is more than talk, but still if pure conversation strikes you as self-indulgent or tedious, rather than (in this singular case) genius, why not pass?
This film pulls back the curtain to reveal a glimpse of what `celebrity'
means when the cameras aren't rolling and the stage is dark. What begins
a celebration of sorts becomes a character study that examines the
of the self-absorbed and those driven by ego, and we get to see the people
behind the `fame.' And while on one hand `The Anniversary Party,' written
and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, appears at first to
be the kind of party you could find at anyone's house at any time in any
place, subtle differences begin to surface that separates it from what
be considered the `norm.' Because beyond certain corporate similarities,
the entertainment industry is quite unlike any other, and that goes
especially for the people who inhabit it. Sure, actors, writers,
etc. are people, just like anyone else, but their particular perceptions
priorities necessarily shift them into a unique position within the
landscape of the human condition, wherein they exist amongst their own and
for the most part play the game by their own rules. This is a
generalization, of course; not every actor or artist lives in the style
depicted in this film, but many do. In the final analysis, Hollywood is
called `La-La Land' for no reason, and Cumming and Leigh know it. Welcome
to a world in which anything is acceptable, anything goes, and usually
Writer/director Joe Therrian (Cumming) and actress Sally Nash (Leigh) have prepared a party to celebrate their six years together; not that they have actually been `together' the entire time, but according to the actor/artist math, it's close enough. Close friends and associates have been invited to share whatever this is with them, as well as a couple of neighbors, Monica and Ryan Rose (Mina Badie, Denis O'Hare), who have certain `issues' with Joe and Sally. And, much to the chagrin of the `aging' Sally, whose career seems to be on the wane, Joe has invited the hot young up-and-comer in town, Skye Davidson (Gwyneth Paltrow) to the party. As the evening wears on into the early morning hours, true feelings are gradually revealed amid a game of charades (rather, a `production' of charades; these people are forever `on'), as well as the sharing of a certain `product' given as a present to Joe and Sally by Skye. And so, what began as a celebration, in the cold, hard light of morning just may be remembered as something entirely different. Welcome to the wonderful world of show biz.
The daughter of actor Vic Morrow, Jennifer Jason Leigh was born into the business, so to speak; Alan Cumming, on the other hand will have to come up with his own excuse. But they have collaborated (perhaps `conspired' would be more accurate) to bring to the screen an interesting, thought provoking story that for all intents and purposes seems, at least, as if it could be a composite of actual experiences and people they have known. Which means they've succeeded in delivering a film that has the decided flavor of reality about it, and for the most part it's extremely engaging, and often riveting drama. it may be a film that many will have trouble connecting with, though, if only because it is bound to fall outside the realm of personal experience for them. Most of the issues in this story are simply unfamiliar territory to the greater part of the world's population, with the exception of those dealing with the more universal themes, like the appreciation of a child's song, or the irritation of the perpetual barking of a neighbor's dog.
What really sells the project, though, and maintains interest, is the excellent ensemble cast the filmmakers have assembled here, portraying an inordinate number of characters driven by look-at-me! egos, yet each presented within their own unique perspectives and contexts. At the center of the fray, of course, is Cumming and Leigh, each of whom do a solid job of anchoring the myriad situations and scenarios generated through, by and around them. Leigh successfully conveys a sense of insecurity consistent with Sally's current status, and Cumming does a good job of making Joe quite unlikable, affecting as he does the look, attitude and personality born of an overblown and bloated ego. it's a portrayal that effectively points up the absolute boorishness that can be found within this community.
Paltrow, meanwhile, perfectly captures the essence of the shallow and relatively clueless ingenue, the vast majority of whom become a flavor of the week before disappearing into the obscurity of Hollywood's human `outbox.' While Phoebe Cates, as former actress Sophia Gold, represents the opposite end of the spectrum, a young woman perfectly content with her current role of wife and mother. And Kevin Kline is convincing as her husband, actor Cal Gold, who though successful is still visited with insecurities and doubt; and his performance is one of the highlights of the film.
Also turning in performances that stand out from the rest are Mina Badie (Leigh's real life half-sister) as the neighbor who comes to the party offering conciliatory overtures toward a more `neighborly' relationship; John C. Reilly, as Mac Forsyth, a veteran director struggling with his latest project (the star of which just happens to be Sally Nash); and Peter Sellers look alike Michael Panes, as Sally's talented friend, Levi.
Rounding out the exceptional cast are Jane Adams (Clair), John Benjamin Hickey (Jerry), Parker Posey (Judy), Jennifer Beals (Gina), Matt Malloy (Sanford) and Owen Kline and Greta Kline (Kevin and Phoebe's real life children, as Jack and Evie Gold). A film that is more interesting than entertaining, `The Anniversary Party' nevertheless offers the viewer a chance to vicariously explore and experience Tinsel Town from the dark side of the curtain; some will find it exciting, while others will deem it decidedly unglamorous. Either way, Cumming and Leigh are to be commended for making it `real.' It's the magic of the movies. 7/10.
I can understand how many will find THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY an indulgent,
sneering little movie lacking in focus and ultimate catharsis; but I enjoyed
it, quite a bit actually, if only to see some of Hollywood's finest talent
freeing themselves from the studios for the intimacy of a digital shoot. I
admired Party for being bold, clever, funny, cutting and occasionally
brilliant. The ending felt a bit forced at first (the off screen family
death as catalyst for conclusion was used to better effect in TWO GIRLS AND
A GUY - another actor-driven digital indie), but ultimately it fit for Sally
and Joe to end where they began, Narcissist and Echo.
Other comments have provided good synopses; I won't elaborate save for one obvious theme so far missed, that of chasing lost youth. It's quite depressing really, for at this party, Generation X officially goes over the hill. All my life I've been vaguely annoyed at self-obsessed Baby Boomer flicks like The Big Chill and The Ice Storm that seemed to congratulate an entire generation for being so damn dysfunctional. Well (*sigh*), now such movies will be made about my generation, here defined as neither willing nor ready to grow up. Gwyneth as "Skye @#*%ing Davidson" has the one thing all else at the party have lost, and the little pills she brings offers a last, desperate attempt to participate in her "youth culture" (ages 8-29 need only apply). Klein's presence (an obvious reference to the Big C) suggests that some Boomers are still chasing that lost youth. Meanwhile, Gen-X is just getting started.
"So much for Ecstasy."
A wonderful ensemble piece starring many fine actors, The Anniversary Party delves deep into the ties that bind us together. But the second act is an unflinching look at how we tear ourselves apart. While it has some flaws, I found it hit its marks more often than not. The Altmanesque flow of the movie was almost pitch perfect and never got in the way of the story. There is tension between almost all of the principles and it is often the cover-your-eyes-but-look-through-your-fingers type. I found most of the relationships to be as flawed and messy as the real ones (mine at least). Sure, there's an extraneous scene or two (the near drowning scene comes immediately to mind) and they don't set up the ending that well, but I was happy to forgive the warts to get a close look at compelling relationships.
Definitely not what I was expecting from reading the box at the video
Forget any reviews or anything you hear about this movie. Walking into
with expectations would have ruined it for me.
The movie is well directed and cast (despite the fact that many of the actors are related - this is a happy surprise when the credits roll). The premise is that a separated "celebrity" couple gets back together for their sixth wedding anniversary, much to the happiness of (most of) their friends and colleagues, and begin to plan a family and a move to England from Hollywood.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming make a credible couple on the verge of stardom or has-been-dom, depending on what takes place in the coming year; relocating to England to have a baby or having "Sally" act the part in "Joe's" new movie. It becomes clear near the end that the desires of each aren't what was expected in the beginning of the film.
The only disappointment was Kevin Kline's character. This role was the least interesting of the group; he efforts a semi-believable, cynical hollywood type who holds genuine affection for his children. I just didn't feel anything for him, although Kline shines as would be expected. Small quibble.
Phoebe Cates plays the most believable character, Sally's best (female) friend, and makes you wonder where she's been lately. She comes terribly close to stealing the show by nailing her role with Oscar-quality acting and frightening emotion. We all have, or deserve, a friend like "Sophia."
The other surprise star is Mina Badie, who evolves from the apprehensive and abrasive neighbor to untethered, libertine by the conclusion. I'm not sure why she doesn't want more acting roles.
There was a tad too much nudity in the pool scene (although it is explainable), but aside from that, I would recommend this to anyone whose pre-child relationship is not currently on the rocks.
Cloying at times but very compelling and all-but-unpredictable,
'Anniversary' surprises with its power and brutal candor, especially when
one tries to discern the autobiographical truths. Saw it last at Disney
company screening in NYC when I had no idea what I was about to see or who
had created it. Amazed at end to discover in credits that co-stars Cumming
and Leigh had written and directed the film.
Was especially struck by the performances of Jennifer Beals--whom I did not recognize--and Phoebe Cates, whose brilliance in one climactic scene w/ Leigh is startling. Impressed at heavyweights in cast like Kline, Paltrow and Cumming. Delighted to see John C. Reilly again (but where was buddy Philip Seymour Hoffman?) Newcomer Mina Badie was the most striking "rookie" in cast (but one whose name, phonetically, rivals that of "Snidely Whiplash.")
The technical miracle here came when I realized--only after screening and upon reading production notes--that the "film" was actually shot on digital video. I defy any non-pro viewer to recognize the difference. The success of the remarkably soft film-like cinematography here by veteran John Bailey may accelerate Hollywood's embrace of much cheaper, quicker video production. It's unintrusive effect is dazzling here.
Biggest flaw here is lack of substantial "story" and reliance on lengthy Ecstacy scene and theme. The politically incorrect happy-drug message here will hurt the movie with mainstream critics. This despite fact that plot does eventually include a moralistic, anti-drug hard-drug lesson in its somewhat predictable conclusion.
One of the best I've ever seen. Deep, succinct, funny, sweet, true. I love ensemble movies - or, maybe what I should say is that I love movies where every actor can act, and is given that opportunity by the director and the script. This was gorgeous. Think I'll write to the directors to thank them for their smarts and humor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you are reading these comments, then you may be looking for some insight before you rent this movie or after you had just seen it. Most of the unfavorable comments arise from the perspective of Ryan Rose, played by Denis O'Hare, the neighbor or outsider of the Hollywood business and the "audience" of the movie. The entire movie shot in digital video (DV), is like this loud barking dog, represented by critics acclaiming the movie as one of the years' best, and the audience just can't stand it. They want to just kill the dog (see How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog) and go on to the next movie.
Well, if you feel that way, so be it.
I think this movie is a real gem. If you're looking for a real plot--you won't find much here, except some surprising character revelations. This film is shot in a dogma-magnolia-tenebaums style where the moments and emotions fuel the movie rather than a specific character transformation from point A to point B. It's a comedy, where the actors' and directors' intent is to poke fun in their own lives and world. If you're looking for sympathetic characters with no flaws--you won't find any here, except maybe the neighbors who are the outsiders. Then again, these characters were not made to be sympathetic, but for you to take them as who they are.
The film starts out very slowly, like the preparation of any party. While the leads do not take any part in the actual preparation, a glimpse into their lives are seen. The camera and directing moves around like a voyeur into different rooms and conversations when the partygoers arrive. The directing style is very close and personal, intimate and claustrophobic at times, but raw and real.
Real and as real as it can ever get in Hollywood. For example, two couples are played by actors who are married to each other in real life (Kline and Cates, the Golds; and Hickey and Posey, the Adams). Kline and Cates' real life children also participate in some very, very adorable scenes which may lend to their future acting careers. The photographs on the wall were taken by Jennifer Beals, who has photographed the couple a lot in preproduction--though you can't see them up close. Otis is Jennifer Jason Leigh's dog outside of this film and in this film. Even the yoga instructor and props are part of Leigh's life. Cumming and Leigh wrote the scripts with these SPECIFIC actors and actresses in mind, thus giving them mannerisms they actually do on film and also, not on camera. There is this portion in the film where the guests came up with toasts, celebrating Cumming and Leigh's anniversary. However, these toasts were not scripted but improvised or written by the characters themselves to "surprise" Cumming and Leigh. The toasts themselves were very creative and yet within their characters. Cumming even signs his own book in real life, called Tommy's Toy, for a neighbor. Cumming claims in the DVD that he will finish that book sometime this year.
Sure, all this seems very self-important, indulgent, stereotypical Hollywood glamour, but I haven't seen any "authentic" casting like this in any other movie. Even though, they are all actors playing actors who are close friends in real life, it is an effortless and authentic kind of feeling you get when you watch them interact with each other. If you didn't know that beforehand, then maybe you won't be able to tell the difference.
I enjoyed this one scene when they were playing Charades. I guess actors take this game seriously, because in a way, it is their craft, so they pick these obscure titles from novels, songs, or whatever for the other team to guess. But in one scene, Jerry Adams, the business man plays by Hickey, goes absolutely ballistic and overly competitive. Like a whining critic cursing at a bad movie for cheating him out of his money and time, he hilariously verbally jumps on his own teammates for not going on to the next syllable or not getting the point. Don't you know someone like that when you are playing this friendly board game or party game?
*Possible spoiler ahead.
There is no real plot, but two points the movie attempts to get across. First of all, everyone is flawed--the dialogue scathingly points out the scratches on every character. These flaws are mainly demonstrated in the Hollywood perspective of deciding to have a child. Second, the choice of having a career versus having a child and family is the centerpiece of this film. The issue is brought out in the interactions between Jane Adams (child but still working and stressed), Cates (two children, not working and happy?) and Leigh (working, but going downhill, but her husband wants a child). This depends on the maturity of the characters--(i.e. whether or not they are still thinking they are 10 years younger than they really are) and the flaw in Leigh's character not willing to give up her career and her desire to play some role she can no longer play. Though it also seems Leigh's character's personal life (in the film) is affecting her acting career in her latest project, it is an introspective look on the choices we make in our personal lives in terms of drawing a line between the workplace and home. If the line becomes blurry or it doesn't exist in this glass house they live in, then, how would you cope with it if you were in their shoes? Are their shoes any different form ours?
The ending seems somewhat forced and abrupt, but overall, for a 19 day shoot, I guess they did the best with what they had. 7/10. I was pleasantly surprised.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another film about film. Actors playing actors. It is worth watching if you have followed the careers of these two. Because they are earnest but not particularly intelligent, what we have are notions from the better projects they've been involved in.
Ms. Leigh has been in some important ones: strong directors with vision: the Coens, Altman, Cronenberg. A dogma film. She's got some interesting experience, and brings it all to bear here, but not always in the most apt fashion.
Cumming has a more narrow career -- playing the deranged, rather an easier thing. And he has less scope than Jennifer. But rather than run from it, he uses it. If you've been through his `Titus,' you'll appreciate his references better.
This is an actors' project. So other than the writers' influence, the only matter of interest is how rich they are. The Kline family so towers over the others it is remarkable. The whole family. Even Phoebe transfixes, relying on his steady influence.
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