Picks and Pans Review: The Anniversary Party

updated 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline

Joe and Sally Therrian (Cumming and Leigh), an English novelist and his movie-actress wife, have been wed for six years, including a recent yearlong split. Back together, they're living in a sleek modern house in one of L.A.'s pricier canyons and trying to have a baby. To celebrate their anniversary, they throw a bash, which turns into a bumpy night for them and their equally glamorous guests (including Paltrow as a rising young star and Jennifer Beals as a globetrotting photographer).

A glitzier if more irritable version of 1983's The Big Chill, The Anniversary Party sets out to show the cracks in Hollywood marriages and friendships. Cowritten and codirected by Cumming and Leigh, it's the kind of navel-gazing project that can be whiningly self-indulgent, but here—at least for most of the movie—it is fairly absorbing, often funny and gets within spitting distance of truths about aging, opportunism and artistic compromise in Hollywood.

The welcome surprise here is the long-absent Phoebe Cates, who creates a deft portrait of a retired actress content to let her film-star husband (Kline, Cates's real-life hubby) hog the spotlight. Cates and Kline's off-camera kids Owen and Greta also appear on-camera, and father and daughter do a charming mock ballet. (R)

Bottom Line: Party on

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