Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Anniversary Party

I spent this past Sunday in a movie marathon state of mind. By far one of the most genuine and unforced movies that I've watched in a long time was the 2001 American drama, The Anniversary Party. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming co-direct this biting and closely observed film about men and women struggling to make sense of their lives and relationships. Written specifically for the ensemble cast, the film centers on the precarious relationship of Joe and Sally. Sally (Leigh) is an actress; Joe (Cumming) is a novelist whose career takes off with the movie version of his novel about their marriage about to go into production.

In his review in the New York Times, Stephen Holden called it "an articulate, acutely observant film [that] makes you realize how starved Hollywood movies are for great ensemble acting . . . the movie has such finely woven performances that the best scenes project a convincing illusion of spontaneity . . . Ms. Leigh and Mr. Cumming's screenplay does an amazing job of creating about a dozen fully rounded, nuanced characters with a minimum of words. The dialogue, though it comes quickly and in scraps, is so juicy that the zest with which the actors bite into it suggests they invented it themselves . . . This isn't Chekhov, by any stretch of the imagination. The empathy the film extends to its characters may be evenly distributed, but it isn't all-embracing. Yet despite its shortcomings, this smart, caustic movie is easily the most incisive and realistic comedy of manners to emerge from Hollywood in quite a while, and that's saying a lot."