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:: The Anniversary Party

Your classic low budget first film is almost always set in one location over a small amount of time, with a ‘talky’ subject matter and your friends as the cast and crew. The Anniversary Party is no different, except that the writer/directors happen to be Alan Cumming (Josie and the Pussycats) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle), and the friends they cast in the film include Kevin Kline and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Cumming and Leigh play a recently reunited married couple holding their sixth anniversary party. Cumming is a novelist about to direct his first feature and Leigh is his actress wife. The friends who come to celebrate with them include a famous actor, played by a famous actor, Kevin Kline, and his real life wife Phoebe Cates and their two children. Also arriving is hot young movie star Gwyneth Paltrow, playing a hot young movie star, cast in Cumming’s film instead of his wife.

As the party wears on tensions rise to the surface, secrets are revealed and a rather acrimonious game of charades is played. The use of digital camera to shoot the film provides an intimacy, a feeling of spying on a real event, and doesn’t detract in the slightest from the look of the film. It’s a great step forward in the use of digital technology for low budget filmmaking.

Unfortunately, The Anniversary Party rarely rises above the feeling that this was all just an acting exercise, an opportunity for the actors involved to flex their crying muscles. The plot is unsatisfying, with the climax relying on off screen, unsetup dramatic turns. The characters are largely all unsympathetic, self-obsessed and vain, they might be a real reflection of Hollywood characters, but I certainly wouldn’t want to spend two hours at a party with them. The performances are all good, Jennifer Jason Leigh, as always and in particular. There are enough amusing moments to keep it watchable and the added bonus, for some, of feeling like we’re seeing into these famous people’s real lives.

Screening at Cinema Europa, Brighton Bay Cinemas, Rivoli Cinemas & Cinema Nova