Writer-director Catherine Cahn's "Charlie's Party" parades vacuous character types to humorless effect. Pic is made with the annoying impression it's much smarter than it actually is, capped with pointless or overly familiar conclusions about confused Gotham adults trying to goose up their lives. Midrange fests will sneak a peek, but few are likely to take a whirl.

amely trying to update the sexual dynamic around the swinging key party depicted in “The Ice Storm,” writer-director Catherine Cahn’s “Charlie’s Party” parades vacuous character types to humorless effect. Pic is made with the annoying impression it’s much smarter than it actually is, capped with pointless or overly familiar conclusions about confused Gotham adults trying to goose up their lives. Midrange fests will sneak a peek, but few are likely to take a whirl.

Thesp Charlie (Alissia Miller), panicking on eve of her 30th birthday that her career is on the downslope, urgently sells what few friends she has left on the idea of a partner-swapping session for her change of decade. Reason for this is so poorly articulated that the invite should have been laughed out of the room, yet, despite a toxic personality that could only warm a stormtrooper on a lonely afternoon, Charlie convinces a few others to join her.

Most difficult sell is her writer friend Sarah (Sabrina Lloyd, from Hal Hartley’s “The Girl From Monday”), who’s having personal problems with husband Tom (Mark H. Dold), and isn’t sure a cell phone party (instead of “Ice Storm’s” car keys) would be the right move. Cahn’s script maneuvers things so that Sarah, prudish by nature, has an uncharacteristic change of heart.

Charlie’s b.f. Dylan (Chris Tardio) has an eye for Sarah, and when the rather pathetic party gets going, it’s this couple that manages to get it on and unconvincingly prompt Sarah to reevaluate her life.

Filmmaking and lensing are bland, further dampening a would-be comedy that suffers from a lack of energy and imagination. In a male fulfillment fantasy that’s curious to see from a woman filmmaker, Eron Otcasek’s clueless partygoer has some fun when he ends up in a threesome with two gals.

Charlie's Party

Production

A Sibling Rivalry Prods. presentation in association with Cavalier Films. (International sales: Cavalier Films, Charlottesville, Va.) Produced by Andrew Cahn, Catherine Cahn, Jessica Lieberman. Executive producer, Barry Sisson. Co-producer, Marc Lieberman. Directed, written by Catherine Cahn.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Mitch Gross; editors, Anita Gabrosek, Jonathan Rinehart; music, Andrew Cahn; production designer, Claire Falkenberg; art director, Sondra Scurria; costume designer, Amy McCracken Pihlar; sound, Andrew Cahn; casting, Cindi Rush. Reviewed at CineVegas Film Festival, Las Vegas, June 13, 2005. Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Sabrina Lloyd, Kim Director, Mark H. Dold, Eron Otcasek, Nancy Ann Ridder, Chris Tardio, Alissia Miller.
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