The Anniversary Party
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Imagine everything and everyone who is a stressful part of your life.  Then, imagine throwing a party to which all these people come and every stress is applied at once, and you'll get an idea of the plot of The Anniversary Party.  Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh wrote, directed and star in this Indie film. It also stars a bunch of their Indie friends along with a couple of A-list stars (Kevin Kline and Gwyneth Paltrow) thrown in for good measure.  Several of them appeared together previously in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle which starred Leigh in the title role.  In The Anniversay Party, Cumming and Leigh play a married couple who, back together again after a separation, are throwing an anniversary party for their closest friends (and enemies).  They are all showbiz people with the exception of the next-door neighbors with whom they are having a blood feud over the alleged barking of their dog.  Cumming is a writer who is about to direct his first movie, and Leigh is an actress who is feeling her age.  The guest list includes the director of Leigh's latest film (John C. Reilly), his actress wife (Jane Adams), the couple's financial advisor (John Benjamin Hickey) and his wife (Parker Posey), Leigh's co-star (Kline) and his wife (Phoebe Cates) and kids, Leigh's best friend (Michael Panes), and Cumming's best friend (Jennifer Beals).  The list goes on and on.  The cast is excellent and, beyond Kline and Paltrow, it's a bit fun trying to identify the supporting cast.  Everyone looks familiar.  Some are popping up everywhere recently like John C. Reilly (The Perfect Storm, Magnolia, Boogie Nights) and Parker Posey (Best in Show).  Others are like film trivia questions.  Phoebe Cates has been in semi-retirement since marrying Kevin Kline over ten years ago.  This movie isn't much of a stretch for them. They play husband and wife in The Anniversary Party and their kids are played by their kids!  Jane Adams recently played a long guest spot on Frasier as Niles' girlfriend, Mel.  And then there is Jennifer Beals, another candidate for the ``Karen Allen" where have you been all this time award. She starred in Flashdance, The Bride, and then, well, nothing.  But, as usual, I digress.  This film starts by showing Cumming and Leigh as a couple back together but still feeling their way.  Then, slowly but surely, as each guest arrives for the party and adds to the dynamic, the pressure ratchets up and we start down a slippery slope that becomes a death spiral.  A few amusing moments are supplied by the couple from next door who are like fish out of water next to all the movie stars and can't help but mention the barking dog in every other sentence.  Leigh is great as always and here has another part to add to the pantheon of troubled, dark characters that she always seems to play.  Cumming is good too, particularly if you like a man who is really hairy.  Beals and Panes as the couple's best friends provide some of the most interesting moments.  Cumming's isn't bothered much by her wife's male best friend but sparks fly whenever Beals gets too near to Leigh.  Maybe this is because Panes bears  a strange resemblance to Peter Sellers while Beals looks, well, like Beals.  Kline gives a very muted performance as himself. He has some nice scenes with his kids who emote like their daddy.  Paltrow is very ditzy as a starlet who is about to play Leigh as a young woman in Cumming's film.  Mostly, this film works well but it becomes a little too melodramatic by the end as the dire events pile up in soap-opera fashion.  The final irony has the couple , amid all the tragedy, forced, by their financial advisor, to sit down and sign their tax returns. By the time we get to the final awful climax (even worse than filing your taxes),  Post-Traumatic-Stress Syndrome has set in and we have lost our ability to absorb it.  The direction is mostly good although the directors seem to have  a strange fascination for breasts.  I don't think there's a bra worn anywhere in this film.  But it's definitely worth seeing a film with good actors and an good script.  But you'll think twice before throwing your next party.