Party Girl (1995) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality, brief nudity, and drug content
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Parker Posey, Guillermo Diaz, Omar Townsend, Sasha von Scherler, Anthony Joseph De Santis, Liev Schreiber, Donna Mitchell
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Screenplay: Daisy von Scherler Mayer, Harry Birckmayer
Every once in a while, you come across a movie so energetic, imaginative, and fun to watch, you'll find yourself forgiving the lack of real plot or its tendency to overindulge in asides. Party Girl is one such movie. It's an offbeat comedy, a quirky romance, and a seemingly non-stop celebration of the hedonistic club lifestyle on the artsy side of New York City, but in reality, it's really just a playground built for Parker Posey (You've Got Mail, Best in Show) to run around in. Of course, being that she is also "energetic, imaginative, and fun to watch," she is the perfect choice for the title role, taking what could have been a stereotypical, ditzy party girl character and stamping it with her own brand name in personality.
Posey plays the party girl of the title, Mary. She has trouble keeping down a job, as her main pursuits lie in her expensive wardrobe collection and partying almost every night of the week. She also throws some parties as well, in order to gain some source of income, but in her latest attempt, she gets busted by the NYPD. After burning almost every bridge to save her, she reaches out to her godmother, a librarian named Judy, to bail her out. Judy is disappointed that Mary is turning out to be as carelessly irresponsible as her real mother was, but reluctantly gives Mary a chance to redeem herself by working as a library clerk under her supervision. Of course, Mary continues the party lifestyle, and when it begins to affect her job and love life (or lack thereof), she finds it's time to bear down and get serious about what's important in life.
The main attraction to Party Girl is for Parker Posey and her knack for giving all of her characters funny, eccentric charm. She's a natural comedienne, enjoyable to watch even when there's not much going on story-wise. We look for her reactions and observations to people and things in the movie, and are constantly paid off with a funny observation or moment of crazy inspiration. Even if the role isn't meant to be deep or profound, she gives a semblance of zany intelligence behind the shallowness that lets you believe that she actually would undertake such a thing as learning the Dewey decimal system in one night and succeed.
Party Girl is co-written and directed by first-timer Daisy von Scherler Mayer (The Guru), who actually benefits from the fact that she is inexperienced. She indulges in characters that have no purpose in the film other than they are funny, and languishes in little side stories that deviate us from the forward impetus of the theme. Yet, for all its lack of focus, it is precisely because the film is all over the place that it ends up working, as it emits a charismatic craziness and a vision of New York askew that makes for some enjoyable and refreshing escapist entertainment on a level beyond the gimmick of "library clerk by day, party girl by night."
Although this was just a small, independent film at the time of its release, it had a bit of a cult following, enough that someone had an idea to create a short-lived television sitcom around, which appeared on Fox in 1996. However, without Parker Posey, it would be hard to imagine such a vehicle succeeding, as there isn't much there in the plot to keep our interests otherwise. If you enjoy unconventional, hip comedies, Party Girl is recommended as a quaintly enjoyable diversion. Just like the attraction of a real party, sometimes it's good to just have fun for fun's sake once in a while.
© 2003 Vince Leo