Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Frank Review of "200 Cigarettes" (1999)

The Short Version? New Year's Eve of the first MTV generation.
What Is It? Comedy.
Who Is In It? TNTL.
Should I See It? Yes.

I love New Year's Eve as a romantic ideal, but the reality of spending most of my adult life single with engaged friends was far removed from it. This involves drinking alone, dancing in a corner like a sad bar chick, eating convenience store burritos at 3 a.m., having homeless prostitutes demand to know whether you're trying to trick on their corner, and walking off a buzz through constructions yards and dangerous slums before driving home to masturbate. It's sitting on the steps of the local techno/goth club, a might too enthusiastic to see that Hives video for the first time, just as a break from the boredom and ever-present stench of cigarettes, booze, and sweat. This might explain why this year, me and my girl stayed home, karaoke'd that Hives song on Singstar, watched fireworks while stone sober in our robes from the balcony, and watched 200 Cigarettes. To my mind, the movie perfectly captures the desperation New Year's generally instills in the unattached heart, and makes you glad to just stay home.

On NYE 1981, a whole shitload of famous faces play New Yorkers looking for love. Martha Plimpton is the Dickensian embodiment of the ghost of holiday anxiety, as she tries to gather friends for her party. Paul Rudd hadn't perfected his miserable asshole routine yet, and is too handsome for his part, but is the closest thing to a star in this ensemble piece. Courtney Love is surprisingly sympathetic as his train wreck gal pal. Jay Mohr might have been more believable in the Paul Rudd role, and vice versa, but instead plays another iteration of his usual narcissistic asshole routine. Christina Ricci provides the precocious jailbait, her specialty at the time, in this instance with a heavy Long Island accent. Brian McCardie also has accent to spare, as an Irish painter with a sexual problem. Ben Affleck works as a douchebag bartender who can't quite get it together. Casey Affleck and Guillermo Díaz are cute punks on the prowl. Janeane Garofalo cameos as, what else, a ballbusting ex.

Throughout the night, these characters and more tell tales that weave in and out of one another (*ahem*) before drawing to an only slightly directed close. Dave Chappelle helps tie it all together as the wizened cab driver, though MTV likely lost their balls and forced him to narrate all the ambiguity out of the closing moments. Kate Hudson is also here in an early role as the most out of place, forced zany character of the bunch. Otherwise, everyone acquits themselves well in this somewhat broad and ribald, but also perceptive comedy. Adding value is a choice selection of hits of the 80s, less novel after a decade of constant nostalgia airplay, but still a joy in context.

Extras? No.

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