Volume 92, Issue 81

Wednesday, March 3, 1999


Bound for therapy

Schumacher proves size doesn't count

Schwartzman and Murray are mountainous

200 cigarettes just emphysemic

Seeking sex and salvation

200 cigarettes just emphysemic

By Christina Vardanis
Gazette Staff

As a polar opposite to its nicotine-filled moniker, Risa Bramon Garcia's directorial debut, 200 Cigarettes, poses no threat of addiction.

Though set in the captivation of 1981 New York on the most anticipated night of the year – New Year's Eve – the film's hopes of becoming a classic with those who lived through the decade of neon and rhinestones dies within the first half hour.

The movie boasts an impressive ensemble cast and follows different pairs of friends as they pursue the perfect New Year's Eve party, ensuring they don't wake up alone. Christina Ricci (The Ice Storm), Gaby Hoffman (Everyone Says I Love You), Courtney Love (The People vs. Larry Flint), Janeane Garofalo (Reality Bites), Paul Rudd (The Object of My Affection) and brothers Ben and Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting) are just some of the big names who grace 200 Cigarettes. The problem doesn't lie in these actors' performances, but rather manifests itself in the boring and annoying characters they portray.

The pair of teenage kids who get lost on the wrong side of town is promising at first. Ricci is particularly good as the oversexed Val, willing to risk anything to find the boys. Hoffman plays Stephie, the more sensible of the two, who tries to convince Ricci of their plight and make it home safely. Their love-hate relationship is both humourous and familiar – a tribute to adolescent days when a person changed best friends more often than underwear.

However, Hoffman's constant and predictable whining coupled with her high-pitched New York accent becomes so abrasive it forces the viewer to disengage, purely for their own sanity.

Newcomer Kate Hudson is coupled with Jay Mohr (Mafia) as a pair on their second date after a one night stand. Hudson is the passive female and the world's largest klutz. Mohr is an aspiring actor with the attitude of an Oscar winner. What transpires is a nightmare of a date, which is so awkward it's painful to watch.

While odd couples typically fair well with audiences, this one misses the point. There's nothing between these two which can even pass for chemistry – not even the typical "opposites attract" anger which translates into foreplay. The two characters amount to nothing more than pathetic shells and are a waste of time.

The only truly interesting couple is Rudd and Love. Rudd is hopelessly bummed about breaking up with his girlfriend and spending the night, which is also his birthday, alone. Love is his slutty best friend, who dares Rudd to sleep with her. Their relationship is fascinating and easy to relate to, as most people have dealt with wanting a platonic relationship to be otherwise. Rudd is hilarious, tackling his insecurities and feelings for Love with a hysterical neurotic flare.

A positive aspect of the film is its nostalgic take on the early '80s. Garcia plays on both the loves and hates of the time period, layering her stars in hideous fashions which make the viewer smile and cringe at the same time. Elvis Costello makes a hilarious cameo as himself, the king of pop who somehow gets entangled within the web of characters.

There are other mentionable performances, namely Ben Affleck as the bartender who is constantly ditched and Dave Chapelle as the stoner cab driver who provides the connecting vehicle for the characters. However, their stories are dull and not filled with enough comedic value to make them worthwhile on any level.

For the majority of the film, Garcia is just blowing smoke. However, if you don't inhale, 200 Cigarettes can pass for some meaningless fun.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999