Anniversary Party

Rated: R
Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming, Parker Posey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Beals
Directors: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming Writers: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming

At times The Anniversary Party seems like one big acting class, with its obvious improvisations and characterizations of famous people, and at others, it manages to ring truer than you might expect. One thing is for sure, this collaborative first film by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh has some heft to it.

It was shot on a digital camera with a cast composed mostly of Cumming’s and Leigh’s off-screen friends.

Cumming and Leigh play Joe Therrian and Sally Nash. He’s a screenwriter and she’s an actress who’s begun work on a new film. On this day, they’ve arranged a party at their swank Hollywood Hills home to celebrate their six years of marriage. To quell complaints over their’ allegedly noisy dog, they’ve even invited their snooty neighbors, Monica and Ryan Rose (Denis O’Hare and Mina Badie).

The marriage has its share of troubles. Joe seems to have had a bisexual affair at one point. Now he’s pressuring Sally into having a baby. Sally’s unsure and her best friend, Sophia Gold (Cates) is telling her that Joe’s too unstable, sexually and otherwise, to become a father. Sally’s angry with Joe who wants to cast Skye Davidson (Paltrow), a much younger actress, in a role originally written for Sally. It also doesn’t help that he’s invited his ex-girlfriend Gina (Jennifer Beals), a photographer to the get-together. And to top it off, Sally discovers that her career is on the rocks. Co-star Jack Gold (Kline) and director Mac Forsyth (John C. Reilly) think her acting stinks. Add some alcohol and a little ecstasy and the party turns and churns.

Lotta says: Good dynamics, good acting, as you might expect. Fun to watch, more so for film and acting students, I think. It contains one of the most effective husband-wife arguments I’ve ever seen. An opening sequence of party arrivals where everybody is introduced is marred, however, by music that’s far too loud and so you miss most of the who’s who.