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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 Greg King
3 stars out of 4

It is New Year's Eve in New York, 1981. Punk rock is in its death throes. This is a more innocent time, before the era of political correctness, smoking bans, and the spectre of AIDS. This low budget comedy follows a disparate group of twentysomething New Yorkers as they look for love and a hot time in the city in the hours leading up to midnight. The common link is that they have all been invited to a party in a loft apartment.

While Monica (Martha Plimpton), the hostess, grows increasingly frustrated with the fact that no-one has yet shown up, her potential guests are sorting out a number of personal relationships and trying to organise their dates for the evening. The film cuts between the various characters, but we never really get any feel for them as real people. If the film has anything resembling central characters it is Lucy (Courtney Love) and Kevin (Paul Rudd, from Clueless, etc). Both long time best friends they are without a date for New Year's Eve, and gradually come to realise that may well be perfect partners as the night wears on.

First time screen writer Shana Larsen doesn't get overly sentimental about the spirit of the celebrations here. Rather, her script offers up some witty and acerbic observations on relationships. The film is also suffused with a nice touch of irony that is oddly appealing.

200 Cigarettes is the first feature from director Risa Bramon Garcia, a former high powered casting agent, who has assembled an ensemble group of hot young things and rising young stars to bring the characters to life. They deliver enthusiastic performances that capture the spirit of the film. Love in particular is superb, and her flamboyant, brassy screen presence reminded me of a brash, younger Bette Midler. Janeane Garofalo lends her lacerating wit to a small role as Kevin's past lover, a pretentious performance artist named Ellie.

Ben Affleck is wasted in a small and meaningless role as a bartender, while younger brother Casey is solid as a young punk who attracts the attention of Val (Christina Ricci), a tough and feisty teeny bopper. Jay Mohr (from Jerry Maguire, etc) plays the womanising Jack, who is desperately trying to ditch the clinging Cindy (Kate Hudson), with whom he spent the previous night. Comic Dave Chappelle is enjoyable as a spaced out cabbie who ferries many of the characters around the city. Singer Elvis Costello contributes a brief cameo for the ilm's final, delightfully ironic joke.

But the film's setting is also a good excuse to crank out yet another great soundtrack of '80's songs, which, in hindsight, is one of the major plusses of this rather slight, but nonetheless entertaining, nostalgia trip. The costumes also beautifully evoke the era. 200 Cigarettes will largely appeal to audiences who still remember this era with a great deal of fondness and who have not yet grown sick of this whole '80's shtick.

Copyright 1999 Greg King

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