200 Cigarettes is a charming enough diversion and these days that ain't bad.
The feature directing debut from veteran casting director Risa Bramon Garcia
ably displays her well known talent for casting but is unlikely to help her
reputation much beyond that.
The film follows five interconnecting stories concerning people who are all
about to converge at a New Year's Eve party in New York City, 1981.
Monica (Martha Plimpton) is the worried hostess of the party who tries
desperately to keep her friend Hillary (Catherine Kellner) in her apartment
while they wait for someone, anyone, else to show up.
Monica's ex-boyfriend Eric (Brian McCardie) is about to be dumped by his
girlfriend Bridget (Nicole Parker), who receives moral support from her friend
Caitlyn (Angela Featherstone).
Lucy (Courtney Love) and Kevin (Paul Rudd) are long time friends who are
beginning to discover their attraction to each other after Jack's performance
artist girlfriend Ellie (Janeane Garofalo) dumps him.
Val (Christina Ricci) is desperate to experience the pleasures of the flesh
and sees her cousin Monica's party as a perfect way to do this. So she
convinces her cautious friend Stephie (Gaby Hoffman) to leave Long Island for
the city with the promise they'll meet up with a band. They get lost and meet
up with two young roadies (Casey Affleck and Guillermo Diaz).
Finally, there is Cindy (Kate Hudson), a neurotic klutz who has fallen in love
with vain actor Jack (Jay Mohr). She continually embarrasses herself as the
two of them have a date from hell.
Also involved in various stories are a goofy bartender (Ben Affleck) and a
"disco cabbie" (Dave Chappelle) who sees himself as super fly and dishes out
love advice whether his passengers want it or not.
200 Cigarettes is a light romantic comedy which cruises along on the charm of
its large, and talented, cast and tries to cash in on 80s nostalgia. There's
really no reason for the film to be set in 1981 and the only real references
made to this are the occasional appearances of Elvis Costello (who plays
himself). Instead it feels more like a tool to sell a soundtrack full of
retro-hits and draw in the MTV crowd (the film happens to be a MTV production)
who helped make The Wedding Singer (1998) an unexpected smash hit.
The performers are all solid but a few especially stand out. Love, in her
first film since her acclaimed work in The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996),
further proves herself a natural screen presence and develops the film's
strongest romantic chemistry with the equally charismatic Rudd. Ricci is a
comic delight in a small role and Plimpton displays her expert timing.
McCardie and Hudson (who has been generating a lot of press because she is
Goldie Hawn's daughter) make very strong impressions in their first major
screen roles. McCardie's Eric is faced with a self discovery that is every
man's worst nightmare and the actor gets a lot of mileage out of it, he has
some terrific scenes with Plimpton. Hudson proves to be an immediately
likable personality and she gets several physical comedy bits which she
handles like a pro.
The ending is a bit of a let down. Most of the characters break off into
random couples after the party which only shows how little emotional
investment is developed with them. The filmmakers also choose to show the
party at the end of the film in a series of Polaroids with narration from
Chappelle. This provides a couple of funny bits but lacks any real impact.
Still, 200 Cigarettes is decent mindless fun that's perfectly appropriate if
you're just looking for some light entertainment.
Copyright © 1999 Dustin Putman