Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Anniversary Party (2001) [R] ****

Joe Therrian (Alan Cumming) is a popular British novelist, a bad-boy who grew up, married Hollywood film star Sally Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and settled down among the eucalyptus trees in the Malibu hills. Joe and Sally are having a party to celebrate their sixth anniversary although they've only been back together five months since a separation caused by Joe's marital infidelity. They've invited friends, cast members and their families, and the next-door neighbors.

Joe was recently offered a deal to direct his first film; however he really doesn't like movies all that much. The film’s screenplay was adapted from his latest novel, whose main character was based on his wife Sally, although the film's producers have given the role of Sally to young starlet Skye Davidson (Gwyneth Paltrow) whom Sally intensely dislikes, but whom Joe invited to the party anyway. Meanwhile, Sally has been cast in a comedy, together with Oscar winner Cal Gold (Kevin Kline). They're being directed by Mac Forsyth (John C. Reilly) who brought tapes of the dailies to the party, and who is panicked because Sally is phoning in her performance, and Mac isn’t sure he can edit around her poor performance.

The Anniversary Party is based on Cumming and Leigh's finely-crafted screenplay, which feels like a stage play because it takes place in and around Joe and Sally's home, over the course of a single day and night. The film’s pacing is perfect, there are no extraneous sub-plots and all of the lead performances are outstanding. Even the supporting cast is excellent, especially Phoebe Cates, as Cal Gold’s wife Sophia (as well as Kevin Kline’s real-life wife), Jane Adams as Mac’s wife Clair, Jennifer Beals as Joe’s friend Gina, and Parker Posey and John Benjamin Hickey as the neighbor couple.

If you enjoy multi-layered, character-driven, conversation-laden, ensemble comedy-dramas, with a film industry setting, films that contain moments of intense euphoria and intense tragedy, then you probably will enjoy this film. And while there are few films with which to compare The Anniversary Party, it is similar in some ways to films like Crazy, Stupid, Love.Dan in Real Life, Elizabethtown, Feast of Love, He’s Just Not That Into You, Rachel Getting Married, State and Main, and Stuck in Love.

Labels: comedy, drama, filmmaking
Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 56/100
Tomatometer (critics=60, viewers=58)

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