(director: Risa Bramon Garcia; screenwriter: Shana Larsen; cinematographer: Frank Prinzi; editor: Lisa Churgin; cast: Ben Affleck (Bartender), Paul Rudd (Kevin), Kate Hudson (Cindy), Courtney Love (Lucy), David Chappelle (Cab Driver), Guillermo Díaz (Dave), Angela Featherstone (Caitlin), Gaby Hoffmann (Stephie), Janeane Garofalo (Ellie), Martha Plimpton (Monica), Christina Ricci (Val), Hillary (Catherine Kellner), Jay Mohr (Jack), Brian McCardie (Eric), Nicole Parker (Bridget); Runtime: 101; Paramount Pictures; 1999)

“It did capture the East Village feel of the Reagan 1980s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There’s not much excitement to this New Year’s Eve of 1981 party film taking place in the East Village of New York City, except for the attempt at some revelry by pairs of teens and some twentysomethings trying to make a statement about their desperate lives, their loneliness, their neurotic tendencies, their one-night stands, and their need for partying, smoking and drinking.

Numerous sketches take place with the main one centering around a party hosted by Monica (Plimpton), who fears that no one will show up. Her place becomes the focal point for introducing all the so-called zany characters who try and eventually will find their way to her party.

The best thing about the film, is that it did capture the East Village feel of the Reagan 1980s. But, for the most part, this was a dull film that had nothing to say and featured irritating characters. It was difficult to like anyone in this motley group of users, wannabes and punkers. In the end, the film proved to be as shallow as the characters were.

Director Risa Bramon Garcia, making her debut after a successful career as a casting director, seems to be more interested in getting the pop music of the 1980s heard and the bizarre dress of party-goers viewed, instead of telling a cohesive story. She succeeded in scoring both of her limited objects, even getting pop star Elvis Costello to make an appearance.

In this ensemble piece, there are far too many characters to really get to know them and too many subplot developments to keep your interest. Everyone fades in and out of the scene for no rhyme or reason, each with some small tale to tell. Among all these whites is a wise guy black cab driver (David Chappelle) riding in a disco cab, who is also out there trying to score women. He offers what goes for words of wisdom to his passengers: “If you relax you can get what you want, even if you smell like dog shit.”

The ones with the most screen time are: The hostess Monica who collapses thinking no one will come to her party and misses the tremendous crowd that eventually arrives, including her idol Elvis Costello; Kevin (Paul Rudd) is an unhappy sourpuss who’s not enjoying his birthday because his girlfriend left him; Lucy (Courtney Love) is Kevin’s best friend for the last five years, who is accompanying him around town and had sex with seemingly everyone but him. They tempt each other with sex the entire evening. Christina Ricci and Gaby Hoffman are teenagers from the ‘burbs in Ronkonkoma, Long Island. They are just looking for a party or in the case of Gaby, just to get home alive; Janeane Garofalo (Kevin’s ex-girlfriend) is someone who angrily thinks she deserves better than Kevin and tells this to the cabbie; Ben Affleck is a smug bartender looking for sex and he has what must go for the best line. He asks two sex-crazed wannabe punkers, Angela Featherstone and Nicole Parker, the following: “By the way, how do you like your eggs in the morning — scrambled or fertilized?”; Kate Hudson is a clumsy nerd, she is always knocking things over or slipping in dog shit. She’s a virgin who was deflowered last night by the egotist Jay Mohr, a lady-killer and phony; and, finally, there is Brian McCardie, who has a noticeable Scottish accent. He is an artist not able to keep a woman because he’s lousy in bed.

If I kept score correctly, each party-goer finds a new mate to bring in the New Year. When it pontificates and compares relationships to the way smokers have a need for cigarettes, then it became cancerous. I bet you a dollar to a donut, that you could have gone to most any other New Year’s Eve party in Manhattan and met more interesting people!