Millennial angst and mounting Y2K panic indicate that 1999’s New Year’s Eve festivities will be more than the usual debauchery. Otherwise, New Year’s is just another Saturday night: lots of anxious thumb-twiddling before the “fun” starts, drinking to kill the time until it does, and idle speculation about where— and in what condition— you’ll be waking up tomorrow.
200 Cigarettes, which takes place on the evening of December 31, 1981, is as loud and garish and silly as the holiday it celebrates. In this Waiting for Godotlike scenario, a loosely connected ensemble of New Yorkers bides away hours before attending a party the audience never sees, while party thrower Monica (Martha Plimpton) frets about guests who never arrive— at least as far as she knows, since poor soused Monica passes out before they show up. These aimless legions pounding pavement and hopping bars include freshly dumped, whiny Kevin (Paul Rudd) and his wry, patient best friend Lucy (Courtney Love); freshly deflowered, accident-prone Cindy (Kate Hudson) and her blandly insincere actor beau Jack (Jay Mohr); and fresh-off-the-LIRR high-school adventurers Val (Christina Ricci) and Stephie (Gaby Hoffmann).
Nothing much happens, and that’s the point, but all this wheel spinning could have used more grease: Ricci and Hoffmann’s roles exist simply to poke fun at Long Islandese (“Aw moy gawd,” indeed), and Hudson’s pratfalls and blubbering tend to stall the film’s momentum. Most compelling of the bunch is Lucy, a party girl a little past her prime who’s willing to push a none-too-burning crush on Kevin beyond the hypothetical stage. Lucy is no doubt the supplicant of the pair, but Love plays her as a rational, self-respecting supplicant, turning ridiculous lines like “I dare you to fuck me” into a parody of the sexual gamesmanship Lucy wants to abandon. Love and walk-on players Janeane Garofalo and Elvis Costello seem outsiders to the frenzied inertia; these three are the witty, familiar sparks that make all the waiting around somewhat worthwhile. It’s no coincidence that Lucy is the first character in 200 Cigarettes to get soundly drunk and curse New Year’s Eve: she’s a sensible girl with honorable expectations, and she’s only having fun.
Familiar sparks are in bountiful supply throughout Just the Ticket, about Gary (Andy Garcia), a New York ticket scalper trying to woo back his former love, aspiring chef Linda (Andie MacDowell). In the first half-hour alone, Gary calls Linda “my amazing grace,” hopes for “a light at the end of the tunnel,” and pleads aloud for “something to hang my hat on”; Linda points out that in Gary’s presence “I just melt,” and comments upon his “puppy-dog eyes.” Once Linda gazes into those canine orbs and intones, “You’re special,” one aches for Courtney Love to show up, send Linda back into the kitchen, dare Gary to fuck her, and then hit him up for Knicks tickets. After all, since Just the Ticket eventually equates winning a woman’s heart with buying her off, the film should be more forthright about its own vulgarity.