Robert Altman acolytes are a dime a dozen—and they all make the same fucking movie. The latest from this particularly haggard cookie-cutter factory is the curiously titled Garden Party, a tapestry of intersecting Hollywood lives that illuminates nothing except for writer-director Jason Freeland’s obvious fondness for Short Cuts. From the Altman masterpiece, Freeland borrows plot and props but hopes we won’t notice what constitutes wholesale robbery by largely avoiding mirrors and fish tanks and replacing Annie Ross’s smoky jazz and Lori Singer’s cello with shrill emo-pop. Among the dopes that make up this inconsequential quilt: Sally St. Claire (Vinessa Shaw), a real-estate agent whose company doubles as a pot-distribution center; Nathan (Alex Cendese), the gay boy who works as her assistant and whose penis, depending on the scene, is either too big or too small; Sammy (Erik Scott Smith), the budding, sleepy-eyed musician Nathan would like to plug; and April (Willa Holland), some chick who runs away from home to live with lesbians after her stepfather takes a peek at her in the bathroom showering in what appears to be her bathing suit. Freeland makes half-hearted attempts at exploring how the body is exploited via scenes that not only stretch credibility but hinge on theme being brazenly spoken aloud (“I was desperate for a job where I didn’t have to take my clothes off,” explains Sally about why she went into real estate). Maintaining a tone as screwy and miscalculated as Ross Patterson’s interpretation of an A&R ass, Freeman may be less bullying and presumptuous than Paul Haggis (the jury is still out, though, on whether a scene at a gay bar reflects the director’s view of how queer boys mate or if he’s playing the thing for the laughs), but there’s absolutely no pleasure to be had from a film whose only agenda is to simulate what it might be like to listen to the Garden State soundtrack while chilling inside an Olsen twin’s bedroom.
- Roadside Attractions
- 89 min
- Jason Freeland
- Jason Freeland
- Vinessa Shaw, Willa Holland, Erik Scott Smith, Alex Cendese, Richard Gunn, Patrick Fischler, Christopher Allport, Jeff Newman
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