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Review: The Anniversary Party

Both aimless and painfully self-aware, the film is an extended actor’s studio exercise.

2.5
The Anniversary Party
Photo: Fine Line Features

Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s The Anniversary Party is a retread of The Big Chill, with friends, colleagues, and estranged neighbors pouring into a couple’s home to bemoan their privileged lives. Both aimless and painfully self-aware, the film is an extended actor’s studio exercise, and as much as it begs to be viewed as an introspective study of Hollywood’s acting community, it offers characters who are no more, no less than abstractions of Hollywood types. Then again, the filmmakers would say that these characters are people first, thespians second (even though every other word out of their mouth is “dailies” and “greenlighted”). Leigh and Cummings star as a no-longer estranged married couple celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary inside a house that’s notable for its predictable Eames-era decor. There are two movies here: the dull one before the ecstasy and the less clobbering one after the ecstasy. Skye Davidson (Gwyenth Paltrow) is the film’s aspiring-actress-cum-drug-dealer, and when her MDMA takes effect, the film suddenly takes off. Cumming and Leigh’s characters become more open, unleashing their pent-up frustrations, and the film suddenly feels as if its taking jabs at the façade of Hollywood living. It’s chilling that this couple’s relationship has been seemingly built from the same raw material that informs a stage act, and if the film’s first half reminds us that the only thing worse than not being at a bad party is actually watching a bad party transpire in real time, the second half suggests that the only bad performances are the ones built from lies.

Cast: Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Parker Posey, Kevin Kline, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Adams, Minda Badie, Jennifer Beals, Phoebe Cates, Michael Panes, Denis O'Hare, John C. Reilly Director: Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh Screenwriter: Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh Distributor: Fine Line Features Running Time: 122 min Rating: R Year: 2000 Buy: Video

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