This is one ‘Party’ not to miss

Mark Hornberger

If you only attend one Cultural Film Series event this semester, the upcoming feature is the one to see.  This week CFS will be screening a thought-provoking seriocomedy, “The Anniversary Party.”  

The entire narrative of this 2001 film takes place during a single evening, at the sixth anniversary party of a Hollywood Hills couple, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming.  During the course of the evening, the viewer becomes a fly on the wall at this celebration, which delivers equal shares of drama and comedy.  Inhibitions as well as clothing are shed after an unexpected anniversary gift is presented. One by one, people at the party divulge a flurry of confessions. By the end, the naked truth emerges.  The hosts, along with several of their guests, find themselves more exposed than anyone in Hollywood should ever be.

Along with costarring in this independent film, Leigh and Cumming also wrote and directed it. The two had wanted to collaborate on a film for a few years, since appearing together in a recent revival of “Cabaret” on Broadway. The amazing chemistry they displayed on stage has certainly transferred to the big screen.  

Because the screenplay is based loosely on people Leigh and Cumming actually know, incorporating how their real-life friends have made decisions regarding marriage, career choices and parenthood, the narrative seems very authentic.

Adding to the reality is the fact that the party guests – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey, Jennifer Beals, John C. Reilly and Kevin Kline, with his real-life actress/wife Phoebe Cates – are actual friends of Leigh and Cumming. In this way the film engages the audience on a highly intimate level.

“The Anniversary Party” was shot over a 19-day period with a digital camera, also adding to the sense of verisimilitude.  Because everyone on the set was so chummy, this remarkable film only cost $3.5 million to make.  This is incredible in light of the amazing cast that was assembled. (I guess it pays to have friends in Hollywood).  

If you are an actor or have ever thought about being one, this is your chance to see just how real fantasy can be.  You will find yourself feeling like you are a quiet guest sitting in the corner watching the antics unfold.  The discomfort experienced by some of the characters seems so real; you may even end up feeling embarrassed for them.You have four chances to see “The Anniversary Party” in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 21 at both 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.  Admission is $3 for students and $4 for all others. Only Monday evening’s screening will feature an introduction and a discussion about the film led by Dr. Rick Worland, who teaches at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.