The Anniversary Party Reviews

  • Oct 19, 2017

    Quite honestly, the movie & cast was great... Leigh & Cumming were quite capable as actor/directors.

    Quite honestly, the movie & cast was great... Leigh & Cumming were quite capable as actor/directors.

  • Feb 11, 2016

    "The Anniversary Party" is an acting movie more than it is anything else, and that distinction is both its downfall and the very thing that keeps it slightly interesting for its length. In it, we are invited to the eponymous gathering, which is celebrating the six year wedding anniversary of Joe (Alan Cumming) and Sally (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Joe is an established writer in the process of beginning a film adaptation of one of his novels, and Sally is an actress whose career has been hot for a number of years but has recently begun stalling. They cannot necessarily say that their marriage is completely blissful, though: problems have risen due to infidelities (a couple having to do with Joe's bisexuality), career troubles, and distrust. But they're trying to make it work, this anniversary party coming at the tail end of a prolonged separation. They figure honoring their relationship could do them some good. But like any party only being attended by a handful of guests, many of them being old friends and secret lovers, there is a tension we quickly can see invisibly brewing in the air. This characteristic is especially noticeable after Joe invites Skye Davidson (Gwyneth Paltrow), a young actress, to the festivities; she is the woman, it seems, that will be playing the part based off Sally in Joe's upcoming film. A smooth move by Joe, to be sure. And so, like we'd expect in a film made solely as an acting exercise, the party grows increasingly haughty, emotions growing more and more blazing as it wears on. And after Skye gives Sally and Joe ecstasy for a present and gets everyone in the house higher than a kite, we can be sure that things won't be ending prettily. Eruptions, passionate monologues, and revelations will ensue. This isn't a party anyone's going to forget about. "The Anniversary Party" is also written, directed, and produced by leading stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, who decided to become co-filmmakers after working together and finding themselves to be an artistic partnership made in heaven. And for what "The Anniversary Party" is, their endeavor is mostly successful - the tension is very much believable, the dialogue cutting, the characters written with enough dimension to keep an ensemble of this size busy instead of wasted on meandering material. It sets out to be a soul sister of the films of Cassavetes, and maybe even a quasi-homage to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," if I'm going for broad comparison. It's the kind of film made by artists who want to try their hand at something more difficult than what they're used to. So we're relieved that Leigh and Cumming are adroit as filmmakers and not just actors looking to spend their time helming a vanity project. Shot on digital and featuring a cast mostly comprised of old co-stars, the film is believable in its portrayal of an uncomfortable anniversary party. But while I'm in admiration of its simplicity, and the way it is a sturdy writing/directing debut for Leigh and Cumming, I never found myself considering "The Anniversary Party" to be anything more than a good excuse for everyone involved to get together and show off their chops - it's an exercise more than it is something great, and that feeling is inescapable. Still, it accomplishes what it wants to achieve decently well, and Leigh and Cumming aren't some wannabes unsure of what direction to take the film.

    "The Anniversary Party" is an acting movie more than it is anything else, and that distinction is both its downfall and the very thing that keeps it slightly interesting for its length. In it, we are invited to the eponymous gathering, which is celebrating the six year wedding anniversary of Joe (Alan Cumming) and Sally (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Joe is an established writer in the process of beginning a film adaptation of one of his novels, and Sally is an actress whose career has been hot for a number of years but has recently begun stalling. They cannot necessarily say that their marriage is completely blissful, though: problems have risen due to infidelities (a couple having to do with Joe's bisexuality), career troubles, and distrust. But they're trying to make it work, this anniversary party coming at the tail end of a prolonged separation. They figure honoring their relationship could do them some good. But like any party only being attended by a handful of guests, many of them being old friends and secret lovers, there is a tension we quickly can see invisibly brewing in the air. This characteristic is especially noticeable after Joe invites Skye Davidson (Gwyneth Paltrow), a young actress, to the festivities; she is the woman, it seems, that will be playing the part based off Sally in Joe's upcoming film. A smooth move by Joe, to be sure. And so, like we'd expect in a film made solely as an acting exercise, the party grows increasingly haughty, emotions growing more and more blazing as it wears on. And after Skye gives Sally and Joe ecstasy for a present and gets everyone in the house higher than a kite, we can be sure that things won't be ending prettily. Eruptions, passionate monologues, and revelations will ensue. This isn't a party anyone's going to forget about. "The Anniversary Party" is also written, directed, and produced by leading stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, who decided to become co-filmmakers after working together and finding themselves to be an artistic partnership made in heaven. And for what "The Anniversary Party" is, their endeavor is mostly successful - the tension is very much believable, the dialogue cutting, the characters written with enough dimension to keep an ensemble of this size busy instead of wasted on meandering material. It sets out to be a soul sister of the films of Cassavetes, and maybe even a quasi-homage to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," if I'm going for broad comparison. It's the kind of film made by artists who want to try their hand at something more difficult than what they're used to. So we're relieved that Leigh and Cumming are adroit as filmmakers and not just actors looking to spend their time helming a vanity project. Shot on digital and featuring a cast mostly comprised of old co-stars, the film is believable in its portrayal of an uncomfortable anniversary party. But while I'm in admiration of its simplicity, and the way it is a sturdy writing/directing debut for Leigh and Cumming, I never found myself considering "The Anniversary Party" to be anything more than a good excuse for everyone involved to get together and show off their chops - it's an exercise more than it is something great, and that feeling is inescapable. Still, it accomplishes what it wants to achieve decently well, and Leigh and Cumming aren't some wannabes unsure of what direction to take the film.

  • Jun 03, 2015

    After all the speeches and pomp and circumstance,what the hell do we really have here?

    After all the speeches and pomp and circumstance,what the hell do we really have here?

  • Jan 14, 2014

    This film is more engraved in my mind because of the girl i took to which it than the actual movie itself. Marine & i went to watch this film & boy we were so young back then & as the film went on we touched hands & had a shy kiss if i remember correctly... i might have been 15 or 16 and it was the beginning of dating and all that for me.... so yep i remember the film but it wasn't a great film, just a nice comedy about a bunch of friends going through phases and drama during a party when everyone is high on drugs.... Interesting but not tremendously indispensable.

    This film is more engraved in my mind because of the girl i took to which it than the actual movie itself. Marine & i went to watch this film & boy we were so young back then & as the film went on we touched hands & had a shy kiss if i remember correctly... i might have been 15 or 16 and it was the beginning of dating and all that for me.... so yep i remember the film but it wasn't a great film, just a nice comedy about a bunch of friends going through phases and drama during a party when everyone is high on drugs.... Interesting but not tremendously indispensable.

  • Apr 25, 2013

    Another self-indulgent film about a Hollywood house party gone wrong; this time with the 28-50 year old "slightly neurotic" friends and neighbors. Are there any other kinds in tinsel town? Once you get half-way through the film, it starts to work. Adequate ending, woof.

    Another self-indulgent film about a Hollywood house party gone wrong; this time with the 28-50 year old "slightly neurotic" friends and neighbors. Are there any other kinds in tinsel town? Once you get half-way through the film, it starts to work. Adequate ending, woof.

  • Oct 24, 2012

    Interesting story but lacks the spice.

    Interesting story but lacks the spice.

  • May 08, 2012

    While the story leaves much to be wanted. The actors at this anniversary party are what makes this film.

    While the story leaves much to be wanted. The actors at this anniversary party are what makes this film.

  • Mar 21, 2012

    A who's who of actors appear in this entertaining film, full of plenty of neurotic and self-obsessed people. Worth a viewing.

    A who's who of actors appear in this entertaining film, full of plenty of neurotic and self-obsessed people. Worth a viewing.

  • Feb 20, 2012

    So may big stars were casted in this film. What a waste. This rich characters whine about their affluent lives for way too long. Meanwhile, you're thinking about all the other things you could/should be doing instead of watching this travesty.

    So may big stars were casted in this film. What a waste. This rich characters whine about their affluent lives for way too long. Meanwhile, you're thinking about all the other things you could/should be doing instead of watching this travesty.

  • Aug 04, 2011

    I remember being very impressed by the characters, and thus the acting, but only mildly enamored with the story itself.

    I remember being very impressed by the characters, and thus the acting, but only mildly enamored with the story itself.