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200 Cigarettes

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: 200 Cigarettes

Starring: Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck
Director: Risa Bramon Garcia
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: February 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4

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 İ 1999 Dustin Putman

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