(After Dark) 200 Cigarettes Review

200 Cigarettes After Dark Review
By Bret Dorman

Last year I made a New Year’s Resolution to write more for my blog. And until I moved from Chicago to Northern Virginia, I had kept that resolution. Come this New Year’s Eve I was wondering if I should get back into writing now that i am settled in and have steady job… at a movie theater no less. I was feeling pretty wishy washy about it until WordPress sent me a report for my blog, a nice little infographic of stats. The report informed me I had written just over 90 posts last year and had obtained 29,000 views. So with that little boost as well as having a Music Box replacement for my “Midnight Movie” fix, I now resolve to write more than ever.

Of course resolutions are something everyone makes and few keep. We all like to talk about them, as well as talk about all the good and bad things that have happened over the past year and how things will be different in the new. So we probably don’t need a movie like 200 Cigarettes to tell us how we feel, but when you’ve got a great cast and kinetic pacing, its hard not sit back and listening to all the griping and complaining, knowing somehow everything will be okay.

80's pop with a who's who cast.

80’s pop with a who’s who cast.

The Story: A bunch of “random” twenty-somethings hop from bar to bar to cafe to bar to Indian food restaurant to bar to dangerous downtown New York City Street to bar; eventually all making their way to a party. They discuss relationships both old and new. Also, its New Year’s Eve.

I understand how many people can look at something like 200 Cigarettes and want to initially cry “knockoff!” The movie does certainly seem to feel like a Richard Linklater directed episode of Friends with Quentin Tarantino-esque pop culture references and obsession over “cool” or “hip” dialogue all set in a wacky 80’s music video. It feels familiar, but feels fresh too. Instead of looking at successful “do nothing” movies before it, 200 Cigarettes uses the aimless stories of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused as permission to aimlessly tell a story about relationships at their ends and beginnings.

Ben Affleck gets a lot of singling out. So dreamy!

Ben Affleck gets a lot of singling out. So dreamy!

The differences between a movie like 200 Cigarettes and more recent holiday themed mega cast romps are intimacy, immediacy, and . The timeline of 200 Cigarettes is very short. One night. With a deadline. And each little mini segment as a sense of urgency. There’s always something, whether it be external or internal, driving them forward to the next destination. At the same time, characters are constantly talking with each other about themselves or others. The relationships themselves are the topics with the party being a destination. The movie doesn’t try to swell up to some big grand revelations, character twists, and a stupefying out of place stunt spectacular. Everything is out on the table and all the characters are known right from the get go (even if we don’t physically see them until near the end, like with Janeane Garofalo). Instead of trying to tease and play with the audience, the movie invites us in to join the conversation.

The German's get extra points for singling out the underrated Upside Down Ben Affleck! So... dreamy?

The German’s get extra points for singling out the underrated Upside Down Ben Affleck! So… dreamy?

When it comes to managing multiple stories and multiple characters, the urge to go big must be strong. If there’s one thing I learned from my improv classes that can translate best to screen, its character background. 200 Cigarettes doesn’t introduce us to every character before jumping into the ‘story,’ it just throws us right in as the characters complain and celebrate. Through their attitudes, chemistry, reactions, and looks we can fill in exactly what they are like. Then the movie uses New Year’s Eve as a catalyst for the destruction of these relationships as well as creation of new romances. Everyone is miserable because they are using the holiday as an excuse for a quick lay, but (most) end happy because they realize love is more important.

The biggest advantage this movie has is it isn’t trying to be a comedy all the time. There are no goofy over the top slap stick moments (with the exception of Kate Hudson) but I’m sure we can all find some specific character traits we can all find relatable. Above all, I’m glad this movie made in the late 90’s, but set in the early 80’s, does not obsess over the 80’s culture. We feel it so vibrantly in the background as it pops out almost into the foreground, but we never are bombarded with scenes reeking of desperate attention, showcasing some of the goofier elements of the past with fond nostalgia.

Why You Must See It After Dark: 200 Cigarettes takes on the often neglected movie holiday of New Year’s Eve with just the right amount of passion, vibrance, and energy to make it the holiday’s flagship movie. Towards the end of the movie, we see one character resolve to stop smoking. While I never have started smoking, I can resolve to write more now than ever. And not just reviews, but scripts as well.

After all, starting a New Year is about starting new things. So I hope you all try something new and give the new theater, Angelika Mosaic, a try and check out the After Dark movie series. We promise to give you not just great movies, but a great experience.

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