1999; Rated R; 97 Minutes
Ben Affleck: Bartender
Angela Featherstone: Caitlyn
Janeane Garofalo: Ellie
Gaby Hoffman: Stephie
Kate Hudson: Cindy
Brian McCardie: Eric
Courtney Love: Lucy
Christina Ricci: Val
Produced by Betsy
Beers, Steven L. Berstein, David Gale, Alan Greenspan, Andre
Lamal, Mike Newell, Cecilia Kate Roque, Tom Rosenberg, Sigurjon
Sighvatsson, Ted Tannebaum and Van Toffler; Directed
by Risa Bramon Garcia; Screenwritten by Shana
by DAVID KEYES
don't have to look far to know where "200 Cigarettes" gets
its title. Here is a movie with so much smoke surrounding
its characters that it's not too difficult to picture them
thirty years later, in hospital beds with collapsed lungs.
This would normally be a distraction for the atmospheric
impression a film has on us, but since this is a straightforward
party movie we're discussing here, it has the right idea,
and allows us to observantly examine the numerous characters,
most of whom contain the poignancy and charm needed to help
the whole film rise above typical plot clichés.
say that I'm ridiculous for admiring "200 Cigarettes," but
there are variations of factors that contribute to the fun
here, and it's not just the smoke, either. The film is in
the spirit of similarly constructed party movies like "The
Last Days Of Disco" and "54," which both came out last year
and both found places on my runners-up list for the best
of 1998. This is the movie that knows its a party flick,
but doesn't care. It's fearsomely ambitious, funny, and,
to say the least, delicious. Don't be surprised to see it
as a runner-up of 1999's best movies.
of it takes place at a carefree era for America's youth;
we are taken back to New Year's Eve, 1981, where Martha
Plimpton plays the hostess of a big New Years party. We
see her wait for the guests, and then are taken to several
different parts of the city with several different characters,
all of which, as we learn, are headed for the same nightclub.
Most of them don't have that much screen time, but that's
the point of "200 Cigarettes." Celebrations in the movies
often conflict with big-name casts like this, and if you
expect a filmmaker to cram all of these characters in a
two-hour movie with lots of air time, you're mistaken. Besides,
when was the first time you saw a movie like this with few
first two people we actually get to know, though, are also
two of the best. Kevin and Lucy, played well by Paul Rudd
and Courtney Love, are obviously smitten with each other,
although a physical relationship (so far) isn't likely.
Oh, but the influence they have on each other, as well as
a horny cab driver, takes them into the women's rest room,
where (guess what?) Kevin's girlfriend finds them getting
naked behind the stalls. She is played by the talented Janeane
your typical events of the average party are demonstrated,
too: the sex, the smoking, the stupidity, the interaction
with others: you name it, you'll likely find it in "200
Cigarettes." This of course, is odd, because half the time
you see a movie like this, some of the stereotypes are dropped
so it can make use of the ones it wants to, which isn't
many. Sex and stupidity are two entirely different thinks,
and you hardly see them in the same movie. This isn't your
typical party formula, and maybe that's why I've responded
so well to it. Even though it is formulaic, and has numerous
similarities to other similar pictures, it all comes together,
feeling new and refreshed. And heck, if it weren't for the
cast of characters, how could anyone like it any way, for
of the most witty characters you meet in the film come from
Ronkonkoma, Long Island (one is played by Christina Ricci)
who venture into the city, anxious to lose their virginity.
Both have a deep New York accent that is so lifelike that
its enough to recommend the movie aside from anything else.
Then, of course, there's the party's bartender, played by
Ben Affleck. He's a fan of Devo, the notorious band whose
song "Whip It" won lots of attention with radio fans in
the early 80s. He asks two of his customers in the movie
if they like this group. What do they do, of course? They
look at him like he's gay. Not one word comes out of their
mouths, and he instantly pounces back. "No, I'm not gay.
A lot of people think I am, but I'm not." Pieces like that
sprawl out of the cracks of the story and keep our attention-span
focused and amused. It has a great ensemble.
if the movie does have a weakness, it's the petty, pencil-thin
plot that keeps everything together. No party film has ever
had a purpose other than to amuse its audience with characters
and entertain with music, and that's clearly evident in
"200 Cigarettes." The soundtrack plays heavily in the background,
while the characters basically move around and experience
all different things, like cheap thrills and, of course,
the scent of a cigarette. That isn't a bad thing, but it
would have been better if the plot gave them something more
to do than just contain themselves in one location trying
to pursue all of their ambitions.
set aside that entire thought and think of the movie as
pure party. Think of it as a straightforward celebration
of the new year, and the urges and ambitions belonging to
the teenagers who live at this time. As an experience strictly
based on those factors and not story, the movie has enough
amusing factors to keep it from feeling abnormal and ridiculous,
like "Dazed And Confused."
all belongs to the people, the dialogue, and heck, the cigarettes.
I'd just hate to picture what their lungs look like fifteen
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.