The Anniversary Party Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh

The Anniversary Party Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh
Written and directed by two actors who cast all of their actor friends in roles as actors and other Hollywood players, "The Anniversary Party" is, well, a very actory movie. It is long on improvisational dialogue and interesting character nuances, and a little short on a cohesive story. The film takes place over the course of a single night, at the sixth anniversary party of Joe and Sally Therrian (Cumming and Leigh), an up-and-coming writer/director and a past-her-prime actress who have recently reconciled after a year-long separation. The party brings together their closest friends, business acquaintances, former lovers, and their argumentative neighbours (only invited to avoid a lawsuit) to celebrate the Therrians' struggling relationship, and the ensuing night of debauchery leads to the opening of some pretty painful emotional territory for many of those in attendance, including the couple of honour.

The cast is a who's who of independent film of the last couple of decades, with the likes of Parker Posey, John C. Reilly, Phoebe Cates, Jane Adams and Jennifer Beals joining Leigh and Cumming and more establish stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Kline. As they are all friends in real life, each character was written specifically for the actor in mind, which gives the film a feeling of incredible authenticity. It's very easy to believe that all these folks have known each other for years and have many intricate inter-relationships. The question is, do you care? The prospect of seeing a film about a bunch of self-involved Hollywood types that's written by and starring a bunch of self-involved Hollywood types may be delightfully post-modern to some, but "The Anniversary Party" lacks much of an insightful indictment of this world, while not quite being able to pull of an every-couple portrayal of the Therrians necessary to give this film universal appeal. The performances are great, and there are some truly inspired moments of interaction, but the overarching story doesn't really hold together. In their exploration of the ambiguity in complex human relationships, the writers/directors would have done well to focus the various story lines to make the film's outcome seem somehow less random.