The Anniversary Party
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming co-wrote and co-directed this multi-character study of people in the film business, and they seem to have enlisted most of their friends. It’s a fabulous cast, including Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Parker Posey, Phoebe Cates, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Beals, as well as themselves. Cumming has been in many, many movies but I remember him most vividly for a performance at the Tony Awards, where he starred as the Emcee, the Joel Grey role, in the “re-imagining” of Cabaret some years back. Instead of the coldness and tuxedo of Grey, he dressed as an in-your-face Goth-punk, and made it work. I’d like to have seen the whole show. Leigh, well, I’ve loved her from the first time I saw her in Miami Blues, though I haven’t loved all her movies since then. She was very good in The Hudsucker Proxy.
All these people gather, arriving a few at a time, for a party being thrown by Leigh and Cumming. There’s at least twenty of them, and we only get a few minutes to—sometimes—learn who they are, but they’re pretty much all self-obsessed and not very interesting. Cumming is a writer and first-time movie director. Leigh is his partner, and the woman his new screenplay is based on … but she’s too old now, so guess who also shows up? Paltrow, as the 4-million-dollar ingénue hired for that part. She’s gushingly embarrassing in her adulation for Leigh—“I watched all your movies when I was a little girl! I can’t believe I’m in the same room with you!” Also present are the non-industry next-door neighbors whose only previous contact has been making irate phone calls about their incessantly barking dog. And their business manager, and an old friend and new helicopter mom who is well on her way to becoming a speed freak. The house is fabulous, the interior decorating is fabulous, the artwork on the walls is fabulous. About the only thing out of place is the dog, who isn’t exotic at all. These people would own an Egyptian Pharaoh Hound, or a Komondor or something equally unusual. I soon found them all pretty boring. Not Hollywood phonies, that’s a common misconception. These are smart people, but I just couldn’t get very concerned with their problems. I gave up trying about halfway through. I will say that, if you like this sort of Woody-Allen-on-the-West Coast thing, it’s well-acted and written (and I suspect a lot of improvisation), and probably was done on a tiny budget. Just didn’t grab me, though.