Like The Big Chill or The Return of the Secaucus Seven before it, The Anniversary Party luxuriates in the problems of a group of attractive, articulate friends who experience the world by way of their own navels, played by an ensemble of photogenic actors pleased to be on a shoot together. As a work of art, the movie, shot quickly on digital video, is genial enough if unrefined — the debut work of two novice filmmakers collaborating with more excitement than precision on their first indie.
As a cultural document, however, it’s priceless, a thesis subject for the taking. Cowritten and codirected by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, the duo also star as a movie actress and her novelist husband, reconciled after a separation and celebrating six years of marriage with a cool world posse of intimates. The pals are played by Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Parker Posey, John C. Reilly, and Jane Adams, among others, all of them flirting, fretting, frolicking on Ecstasy, and/or breaking down with thespian fervor in a pristine 1953 Richard Neutra designed California glass house.
The Pottery Barn catalog of color coordinated Hollywood Hills problems includes the jealousy of an actress in her ”declining” 30s (Leigh) toward one in her starry 20s (Paltrow), and the high strung panic of an insecure new mother (Adams). And here’s a decorator hint: Worrying about career versus motherhood is best done in a good, collectible Eames chair.