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1999 Movie Review

rufus andrew davis party

The difference between a Jerk and a Good Guy is not a Heartbeat, but a Decision. That's what Rufus Wild (Dan Futterman) discovers in an end-of-the-millennium party and that's what all self-deceptive Jerks (and you know who you are) have to learn, the hard way, more often than not. We can change jobs and friends (girlfriends and boyfriends) and families and drugs and cocktails and cities until we get it. Interchangeable life choices change nothing. Realizing that we are who we are and we have to make the best (as opposed to the worst) of who we are makes us Good Guys. And who wouldn't be riddled with confusion for 25 years with a moniker like Rufus Wild? A pox on his parents for giving him that name. Rufus the Jerk is going with Annabell (Jennifer Garner), who's cool, but he's also attracted to a colleague with lots of hair and teeth (Amanda Peet as Nicole), so he (foolishly) breaks up with Annabell just before they attend 1999's New Year's Eve party at which Nicole will be present. Andrew Goldman (Matt McGrath) is the host and his father Harold (Buck Henry) shows up with the line, “Guess what I found?” as he produces a gun. Andrew hides it in the bathroom hamper; a kid finds the gun and Andrew hides it again. Two teenage boys watch the guests use the bathroom, especially the female guests. Two grown-up boys bring hallucinogenic fruit redolent with its own special rotting corpse fragrance, enough for dozens of guests to share. Sylvia (Margaret Devine) tells girlfriend Suki (Sandrine Holt) that she'd rather be an ear doctor than a singer. Harry tells a distraught Andrew that he's not his real father. Suki comforts Andrew. Unattractive guest Goat Man (Steven Wright) blathers non-stop whenever we see him. Nicole does a striptease for Rufus, who's wearing a party card that says “Lutheran.” Writer/director Nick Davis has wicked eyes and ears, especially for silly party behavior and all those stupid end-of-millennium lists (greatest presidents, greatest writers, etc.) compiled by idiots: Lincoln is 18th? Shakespeare is 3rd? Davis is the grandson of Herman Mankiewicz of Citizen Kane fame and he has plotted his 92-minute slice of our very own fin de siecle with great care, abundant wit, and a unique sense of humor, even evoking the spirit of radio drama when he examines Rufus Wild's crisis of conscience. I wonder what 1999 would look like on a double bill with Withnail and I? 1999 opened San Francisco's indie fest in January 1999. If only 15 of the 16 features that followed had been as good as this one. We can't have everything we want, shucks!

1998 92m/C Dan Futterman, Jennifer Garner, Matt McGrath, Amanda Peet, Steven Wright, Sandrine Holt, Buck Henry, Margaret Devine, Daniel Lapaine, David Gelb, Nick Davis; D: Nick Davis; W: Nick Davis; C: Howard Krupa.

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