Plot: What’s it about?
“The Anniversary Party,ö Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan CummingÆs biting adult comedy is full of caustic wit and edgy performances that are so convincing, the film almost borders on the excessive. The film, co-written and co-directed by Jason Leigh and Cumming revolves around Joe and SallyÆs sixth anniversary party. What makes this anniversary a bit more meaningful is the fact that theyÆve just gotten back together after a five-month separation. Jason Leigh plays Sally Nash, a ôpossessive-fragile-neuroticö (and fading) actress, and Alan Cumming plays her insecure, immature novelist husband Joe Therrian, whoÆs just been named the director for the film adaptation of his latest work.
Seemingly, their life together is picture perfect. They live in a beautiful glass house in the Hollywood Hills, Sally is an acclaimed actress, Joe is experiencing fabulous professional success, and the only problem seems to be their next door neighbors complaining about their dog Otis barking too much. The friends who show up at the party are a slice out of Entertainment Weekly: famous actors, actresses, directors, authors, photographers and musicians, put together in one of the most incredible ensemble casts, featuring the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Klein, Phoebe Cates, Jane Adams, John C. Reilly, Parker Posey and Jennifer Beals. TheyÆre a tapestry of eccentricities and talents that are probably a carbon copy of life in Hollywood.
Needless to say, things arenÆt perfect, and it becomes very evident as the party progresses. Sally loathes the tall, strikingly beautiful Gina (Jennifer Beals), who was JoeÆs best friend and confidante during their breakup, and Joe is forced to swallow his tongue, with his neighbors û on the brink of a lawsuit over the dog barking issue û also attending the party. Sally and Joe are also at arms over his directorial debut, since the principal character of his novel is supposedly based on Sally, yet the person heÆs cast for the part is the young, blonde and hot commodity Skye Davidson (Gwyneth Paltrow).
The filmÆs dialogue is relentless and funny, and the performances are captivating. Phoebe Cates as SallyÆs best friend Sophia is the essential Miss Perfect, and Jane Adams (ôHappinessö) is hilarious as the idiosyncratic and quirky Claire. Shot on digital video, the camera work is much more personal, and works seamlessly with the colorful and intense characters. The scene that will make the movie worth your time is The Toast. Entirely improvised, each actor reveals a deeper connection to the story that is as real and honest as IÆve seen in a film. The film starts to wander off near the end, as ecstasy (the drug that is) and some forced drama take over, but the journeyÆs still interesting.
Video: How does it look?
The Anniversary Party was shot on a DV (Digital Video) camera, but is presented in an anamorphic transfer that looks very, very good. While not up to par with some of New Line’s other discs, the colors are very accurate and the level of detail is amazing. Some of the colors seem to be a bit muted and there’s a slight problem with the black levels, but for a motion picture shot on a handheld camera, this looks stunning. There is a slight bit of edge enhancement that caught my eye a few times, nothing to get in a tussy about though. For the most part, there’s really nothing to complain about here. Movies should look this good on DVD!
Audio: How does it sound?
Like another movie that this reminded me of, Your Friends and Neighbors, this disc contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 track but it’s not used to it’s full extent here. In essence, it’s a very heavy dialogue-driven movie and is a bunch of people talking for nearly two hours. Don’t get me wrong, they sound great and there is little or no distortion to their voices at all, but it’s not something that you’ll want to watch again and again for the audio presentation. There is some minor action in the front channels and an instance or two of the surrounds being activated. Aside from that, this track gets the job done, plain and simple.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Again, The Anniversary Party is not up to the standards set by New Line, but it has a fair amount. The screen specific audio commentary by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming. While they don’t have a whole lot to say, what they so say is interestng. Being friends in real life (as is most of the cast), there are some innocent details that are brought up, but nothing really too flashy. Most of the details are dealing with the characters and such. Not the best track, but certainly not the worst. There is a 20 minute featurette called “Anatomy of a Scene” that is a Sundance channel feature. While not that super interesting, it does have the characters discussing the scene in which they all do their proposals. For fans of the film, they will find it a welcome bonus and I commend New Line for adding this feature to the disc. Some cast and crew bios are also included as is the trailer in anamorphic widescreen. Lastly, there are some DVD-ROM extras that includes a script to scene access viewer and some weblinks. Overall, it’s not a bad movie, maybe not enough action for the masses, but sports a great cast and holds up as a nice little DVD. Recommended.