200 Cigarettes (1999) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong language and sexual content
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Courtney Love, Paul Rudd, Ben Affleck, Christina Ricci, Martha Plimpton, Casey Affleck, Dave Chappelle, , Janeane Garofalo, Gaby Hoffman, Kate Hudson, Jay Mohr, Elvis Costello (cameo)
Director: Risa Bramon Garcia
Screenplay: Shana Larsen
Review published February 26, 2000
200 Cigarettes is set on New Years Eve, 1981, in the East Village of NYC. Several young people are heading to a New Years Eve party with their own problems and stories, many of them crossing each other's paths along the way.
Blame this misfire on the director (Garcia, The Con Artist) and screenwriter (Larsen), who, despite having one of the best group of actors one could reasonably hope for is a modestly budgeted film, could not do anything with them. The actors provide plenty of energy, yet, it's all for naught, as the script contains scarcely amusing (and never laugh-out-loud funny) moments, while the directorial handlings are little more than turning the camera on, playing a different hip 80s song every two minutes, and letting the actors try to save the picture off of sheer personality.
The entire production is mystifying. I can't think of a legitimate reason to have set this film in 1981, other than for sheer gimmickry or perhaps to sell soundtracks. Not one of the interweaved storylines approaches the point of being interesting, and even less so humorous. Anyone who knows about the "It Happened One Night" formula knows that there has to be a point in every story where a life-changing even happens (a la American Graffiti), yet the changes in this film seem so inconsequential, that after it's all over we wonder what the point of it all was.
200 Cigarettes always seems on the cusp of becoming good, but it just never does. Nice music, quality acting, and affable characterizations just can't infuse enough life into an uninspired script and pointless storylines. I could recommend this as a good time-waster, if only it weren't such a waste of time.
©2000 Vince Leo