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The Anniversary Party

Spiritual DVD Review

by Karen Bentley

DIRECTOR/STUDIO: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming/Fine Line Features
STARRING: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming, Kevin Kline, Gwyneth Paltrow, Phoebe Cates, Parker Posey and John C. Reilly
©2001 Fine Line Features, ©2002 New Line Home Entertainment

The Anniversary Party is a skillful, unflinching, and darkly funny look at the treachery of the special relationship, one of the most difficult spiritual concepts we are asked to understand.

“It is in the special love relationship, born of the hidden wish for special love from God, that the ego triumphs….It is essential to the preservation of the ego that you believe this specialness is not hell, but Heaven.” A Course In Miracles Text, page 341.

This movie treats us with an up close and personal view of Sally and Joe Therrian’s Hollywood-style marriage. The story revolves around a party that Sally and Joe are hosting for themselves in celebration of their 6th anniversary and their recent reunion after being split up for several months. Sally, played by a possessive and jealous Leigh, is a still beautiful but aging actress who’s celebrity status is starting to wane. Joe is an award-winning British author who writes books that spin into movies. This brings him considerable attention and admiration from young starlets and ingénues, and his star is clearly on the rise. Alan Cumming masterfully convinces us that Joe is a quirky, androgenous, sexually free-spirit, who enjoys hooking up with adoring fans of any gender.

MESSAGE OF LOVE: 10 (for the demonstration of what love is not)
God’s love is not special. This is very different than the romantic love that we create for ourselves here on Planet Earth, where two people have an agreement to make each other special and where specialness is held together by a set of conditions being met.

The inauthentic things that we say and do to acquire and hold on to our special love status are an attack against self. This denial of authenticity is the reason that special relationships are treacherous. We are afraid to be who we are because it might jeopardize our special love agreement. We are afraid to say what we really think and believe because special love might be withdrawn if truth is expressed. So we suffer because we are always lying on some level. The Anniversary Party is a rare and brilliant portrayal of how our special relationships are the experience of hell.

As we look deeper at Sally and Joe, the underlying bargain between them is revealed. He wants a child. She wants a monogamous relationship and a new movie for her fading career. On the surface it seems like they’re both getting what they want. Sally talks a lot about getting pregnant, and she says she’s disappointed when the pregnancy test she just took is negative. Sally also thinks she’ll be the star of her husband’s next movie. Joe says and does all the things that a devoted husband is supposed to do, but there’s a constant buzz about his past alliances. Then during the party Joe finds himself attracted to another woman and kisses her deeply.

Sally witnesses the kiss, and this is when the real drama starts. To get even, Sally angrily tells Joe that she had an abortion just two weeks ago. She doesn’t want to have his child. Doesn’t want to be a mother. Not now. Not ever. Then Joe retaliates. He tells Sally that what she’s done is unforgiveable and that she has destroyed their relationship. He says she cannot be the star of his new movie because she is too old and her acting is too awful. He also reveals that the female character is not just about her but rather is an aggregate of all the women he has ever loved.

Are you brave enough to be real? This movie provokes us to think about the vulnerability of fully exposing your truth to another, especially when the truth is something your special love partner doesn’t want to hear.

As the movie ends, it’s the next day. Sally and Joe are still together. At long last they have finally been authentic with each other, but we do not know what will happen next. Maybe they’ll call it quits. Maybe they’ll attempt another bargain. Or maybe they’ll simply accept each other.

The Anniversary Party is highly recommended because it offers such a stark and prickly view of the dream of special love that we are all having. Love is not special. The experience of being disappointed by our special love relationships can be transmuted into a call to awaken from our dream.

The character played by Parker Posey, a guest at Joe and Sally’s party, said this: “
Marriage is just a lot of work, and it’s really hard. And you figure out the game, and you play the game. And you be strong, and don’t put up with any shit.”

The Anniversary Party screenplay perfectly shows the underside of marriage. The roles are perfectly cast. The all-star performers demonstrate depth and richness. So much perfection in one tight package earns this R-rated movie a “10” for acting, direction and watchability. Big bravos to Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming for a strong, smart directorial debut that leaves us stinging long after the movie ends.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Karen Bentley is the only professional reviewer in the world to review books and movies exclusively from a love-based spiritual perspective. In addition to her work as America’s Spiritual Reviewer, she’s also the author of 8 books including The Book of Love, 10 Radiant Ideas, The Power to Stop and more. For more information, visit any of her websites:
www.karenbentley.com; www.sugarfreemiracle.com; www.powertostop.com.

Contact Information:
Karen Bentley
P. O. Box 1209, Center Harbor, NH 03226

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