If you like films with a dark undertone, if you like movies which are voyeuristic and unravel complex realism...then you should see this movie. Itís cast consists of some of the few actors who are respected both onscreen AND onstage. Each, obviously hand chosen by the directors, which is reflected in their strong performance as an ensemble.
If "All About Eve" captured 30ís hollywood, then this film captures the Hollywood of the 2000ís.
Every little detail screams out Hollyweird! The movie opens with the two main characters having a private yoga lesson in the back of their Frank Lloyd Wright house. Realism is in the fact that they invite the neighbours to their party as a passive aggressive political tactic, the fact that the neighbour-wife (played by Jane Adams), is an interior designer interested in mid-century furniture and only things of the era which she habitates... extremely reflective of how little history the town itself has ...and itís inhabitantís inability to take interest in or learn from the past. So many little things like two Mexican maids talking, two men chatting by the pool about the extremely intellectually stimulating, talented ingenou Skye but with nothing better to say but repeat ad nausseum "she sure got great tits", the fact that everyone is badly dressed in the same way, that everyone is lying about their age, the fact that the director (wonderfully portrayed by John C. Reilly) has a belly, a beard and a baseball cap..I was just surprised his name was Mac and not Joel or David. A great part is the Kleins' children (who play themselves beautifully) singing and performing as children often do, but in a way rarely seen in films...unless itís molded into a Shirley Temple film or some awful scene from a Rob Reiner film, where the whole family lipsynchs to each other.
John Bailey did a brilliant job with the cinematography, in many shots really capturing the yellowy light one only sees in Southern California and how the brightness of the sun manages to blanche out all of the deeper colors in nature...reflective of the somewhat manic superficiality of the City of Angels. There are a few exterior shots..the only movie which comes close in manipulating that light is the pool scene in "Boogie Nights". Much like the rest of the group, Bailey never tries to make his instrument the star...it is only there to help tell the story. His use of a camera is similar to Straussí use of music to depict pain in Salome...there is not beauty and sweetness but truth and emotion.
As the movie unfolds, all of the characters get their monologues and their moments of truth...it is a great Midsummer Nightís Dream gone awry....and one sees how intertwined and complex every relationship is. This effect seems to be achieved almost entirely by the fact that there was so much acting freedom and improvisation on set. The only downfall is that once the audience has been glutted to a certain point of catastrophes, one begins to see the wheels turning thinking the old improv "yes and" game is getting a little out of hand for viewer suspension of disbelief.
All in all,"The Anniversary Party" is a vivid look at the lives of artists in Los Angeles and the only realism lacking was that somehow with the magic of cinema all the characters are likeable, yet if one knew these people in real life he would be repulsed and bored by them...and even in the end, the bizarreness of it all makes it all quite real as morning comes and everyone is coming down from the X-trip and carrying their children home, not worrying about the effects of all the dietpills or the babysitters, infact not worrying at all about their actions or consequence thereof just being...
Vintner: Jennifer Jason Leigh/Alan Cumming
Vineyard: Fine Line