Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Anniversary Party

Year 9, Day 17 - 1/17/17 - Movie #2,517

BEFORE: Too late, I've realized my mistake - I maybe should have linked from "American Ultra" to "CafĂ© Society" (both films had Jesse Eisenberg), from there to "Irrational Man", and that would have also linked here, through Parker Posey.  But that would have moved "The Hateful Eight" after tonight's film and put it on a weeknight, which would have been a problem, considering its three-hour length.  On the upside, it would have moved the start of the romance chain 2 days closer to February 1, but it also would have affected which film gets watched on Valentine's Day, and that's something I want to consider as well. 

I just have to hope that I can circle back and pick up those Woody Allen films later, perhaps by going from the new "Blade Runner" film with Ryan Gosling to "La La Land", and use the connection via Emma Stone to the two Woody Allen films, and then use "Now You See Me 2" as a lead-out.  A lot has to fall into place for that to work, and it feels like I'm building a castle on ever-shifting sands. 

For now, though, Jennifer Jason Leigh carries over from "The Hateful Eight" - and I'm guilty of focusing on her connections, to the point where I overlooked other possibilities.  My bad. 

THE PLOT: Sally Nash and Joe Therrian are a Hollywood couple celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary shortly after reconciling following a period of separation.   

AFTER: When I put together the romance films to make the February chain, there were some that just didn't fit in, because they didn't link to anything else - that's my excuse, anyway.  I'm going to deal with a few of these films this week, then I'll be back on to other films, including a few animated ones, before the real romance-themed work begins in late January.  Hey, relationship films are everywhere, they don't have to be confined to the month with Valentine's Day. 

There's no way to track this sort of thing, but I might be the only person to ever follow a viewing of "The Hateful Eight" with this film.  They're aimed at two totally different audiences, they're in two totally different genres, they seem like strange bedfellows, to say the least.  But are they really all that different?  One's set in a remote Wyoming outpost during a blizzard, the other is set at a fashionable Hollywood dinner party.   But here's what they have in common - both stories are set in confined spaces where the characters cannot leave, for the purposes of story. (And I'm sure we've all been to a few parties that we wanted to leave, but couldn't...)  These 8 or 24 people are stuck together for the duration, and as they talk to each other, annoy each other and push each other's buttons, tempers are sure to flare.  Now, one of them's going to end with bodies on the floor (your guess, but the safe money's on the Tarantino film...) and in the other one, the damage is going to be a lot less visible, but it's still there.

Now, I'm not going to say these people are self-obsessed, but they're Hollywood types - actors, writers, filmmakers and such.  So there's a lot of party conversation like, "What about you, I want to hear about you. Do YOU think I'm too self-obsessed?"  And to celebrate the fact that Sally and Joe are back together, in body and spirit, it seems that (after a non-friendly, near-violent game of Charades) every one of their friends needs to stand up and sing a song, or read a poem, or give a testimonial about what it means for the situation to be what it is.  God forbid that anyone at the party stop thinking about Sally and Joe for 30 seconds...  

This extends to everyone's kids, and their pets, who have to be part of these testimonials.  Really?  The problem is that everyone thinks their pets are THE BEST (but of course, they're wrong, because mine are...) and everyone also thinks that their kids are the most adorable, the most precocious - and nearly everyone is wrong.  Your kid sings weird songs, or dances in a not-too-awkward way, fine, but keep it to yourself.  At home.  Though I guess now with Facebook and Instagram that ship has sailed, huh?  Face it, all parents, your kids are weird, and you're not doing them any favors by putting them on the internet, or making them perform for your self-absorbed friends at a party.  

Everyone at a party also thinks they're the best conversationalist, especially after a few drinks, but similarly, that simply can't be true.  And everyone thinks they're the "good neighbor" in the neighborhood, but guess what?  If you don't know who the "bad neighbor" is, the one that everyone makes fun of, the one whose kids and dog everyone hates, it could be you.  

The party, and the film, come to a screeching halt when some form of drug - ecstasy? - is introduced.  Sure, it's a safe space and people should be allowed to expand their minds in a social situation - but for a movie, it's a cinematic non-starter.  It's just not interesting to watch stoned people, because they just swim and look at their hands and wave glowsticks around, and otherwise generally act stupid.  

And much like these partygoers, it seems like the screenwriters were equally distracted, because they resolve almost nothing, and leave a lot of loose ends.  Can Sally and Joe's relationship survive the party?  What's going to happen when Joe goes off to direct his film?  We never even see Sally give Joe his anniversary present, and that seemed rather important at one point.  And what, for God's sake, happened to the dog?  The situation of a couple that got back together had such dramatic promise, but not without any resolution, in this Sundance-y non-ending sort of ending.

Also starring Alan Cumming (last heard in "The Smurfs 2"), Parker Posey (last seen in "Laws of Attraction"), John Benjamin Hickey (last seen in "Get on Up"), Kevin Kline (last seen in "The Pink Panther"), Phoebe Cates (last seen in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch"), Jane Adams (last seen in "Little Children"), John C. Reilly (last heard in "Bears"), Denis O'Hare (last seen in "The Judge"), Mina Badie, Jennifer Beals (last seen in "Vampire's Kiss"), Gwyneth Paltrow (last seen in "A Perfect Murder"), Michael Panes, Mary Lynn Rajskub (last seen in "Safety Not Guaranteed"), Matt Malloy, Matt McGrath.

RATING: 3 out of 10 bottles of water

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