Perhaps the saddest thing about 200 Cigarettes is not that it’s bad, but that the whole exercise feels pointless. The film’s entire hook is that it’s New Year’s Eve, 1981 – see the funny clothes and hear the retro alternative sound track – but even that’s ineffectual. Despite fleeting references in Shana Larsen’s screenplay to the social shifts that are taking place – hello Reaganomics and safe sex – 200 Cigarettes could really take place anytime.
The film follows a group of arty New Yorkers – mostly poseurs and wannabes – as they make their way to an East Village party thrown by Monica (Martha Plimpton), who’s panic-stricken by the possibility that no one will show up. All her guests are in equally heightened states of anxiety because they have, in unison, chosen this particular night to re-evaluate their romantic attachments (mostly fleeting) and friendships (put to the test, but solid). It’s a long night, and not just for the film’s characters.
Director Risa Bramon Garcia’s background – stage director and film casting director – shows in her feature debut. She’s assembled a zeitgeist-worthy cast, but doesn’t really give them anything substantial to do.
Performances range wildly from Gaby Hoffmann’s dead-on nasal Long Island teen, to Dave Chappelle’s suitably smarmy disco cabbie, to Courtney Love’s clumsy attempt to embody a young, slatternly Bette Midler. Walk-on appearances are even worse: They break the flow of an already clumsy narrative. And some, like Elvis Costello, who looked quite different in 1981, are just embarrassing.
Simply view 200 Cigarettes like New Year’s Eve itself – a holiday when force-fed fun in large groups is considered mandatory – and opt to stay home instead.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.