It's My Party

1996, R, 109 min. Directed by Randal Kleiser. Starring Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Margaret Cho, Bruce Davison, Lee Grant, Devon Gummersall, Marlee Matlin, Roddy Mcdowell, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Regina, George Segal.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 12, 1996

It's my party and you'll cry me a river. There's no escaping the waterworks in this manipulative yet endearing tearjerker. Written, produced, and directed by Randal Kleiser (Grease, The Blue Lagoon, White Fang), this project is clearly a labor of love into which he has poured heart and soul. But heart and soul create a lugubrious mix when not tempered by clarity of expression. With It's My Party's array of sketchily developed characters and relationships, and dialogue so transparently hollow that even Hallmark would reject these lines outright, what we're left with is a movie that's compelling despite itself. The set-up is a weekend-long going-away party that Nick Stark (Roberts) throws for himself and all his friends after he's told by his doctor that AIDS-related brain lesions will destroy all his faculties in a matter of days. Then he will either die quickly or vegetate indeterminably. Nick chooses to die with dignity and plans to end his life with this celebration. Family and friends gather from around the country and, though their host still plays the bon vivant, these loved ones clearly demonstrate the dissonant emotions inherent in such an event. Central to the drama is the return of Nick's former love Brandon (Harrison), who walked out on their relationship following Nick's HIV diagnosis. But typical of this movie's sense of drama, Brandon confesses, after all these years, to having acted like a cad because he was scared and, as simply as that, all seems forgiven and the two are swiftly reminiscing about long-ago ski trips and other fond memories. There are the makings of a lot of interesting characters in this ensemble of talent, but the smatterings of info we're provided create more of a scattershot swirl than flesh-and-blood people. For whatever it's worth, Eric Roberts does his best work in years in this movie, though I'm not sure the world has been waiting to see him and Gregory Harrison play lovers. Despite the movie's frequently lame dialogue, ill-developed characters, cheap melodramatics, and avoidance of any difficult right-to-die issues, there is still something compellingly real about It's My Party. The situation rings all too familiar and true, even if its trappings do not.

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It's My Party, Randal Kleiser, Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Margaret Cho, Bruce Davison, Lee Grant, Devon Gummersall, Marlee Matlin, Roddy Mcdowell, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Regina, George Segal

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