Cigarette smoke and laughter... The hollow clink of martini glasses and biting one-liners... This was the famed lunch scene at the Algonquin Hotel's Round Table of the 1920's, home to a circle of mutually supportive young artists that defined the heyday of New York sophistication and a literate era of wit and intellect. At the heart of the round table sat Mrs. Dorothy Parker (Jennifer Jason Leigh), one of the sharpest, most biting wits of the past century. But beneath the raucous laughter is a darker and richer tale filled with passionate affairs, friendship and tragedy, all captured in this striking masterpiece of unrequited love and self-destructive impulses from acclaimed director Alan Rudolph (The Secret Life of Dentists, Choose Me).
All-Star Cast! Featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female, Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Campbell Scott (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), Matthew Broderick (The Producers, Ferris Bueller's Day Off), Peter Gallagher (TV's The O.C., American Beauty), Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow (The Royal Tenenbaums, Shakespeare in Love), Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, Lost in Space), Jennifer Beals (TV's The L Word, Devil in a Blue Dress), Andrew McCarthy (Weekend at Bernie's, TV's Kingdom Hospital), Wallace Shawn (Clueless, The Princess Bride), Martha Plimpton (Parenthood, 200 Cigarettes), Lili Taylor (High Fidelity, Short Cuts), James LeGros (Living in Oblivion, The Rapture), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off, director of The Notebook), Stephen Baldwin (Posse, Threesome), Stanley Tucci (Big Night, The Devil Wears Prada), Keith Carradine (Nashville, The Long Riders) and Jon Favreau (Elf, Swingers).
The press kit's historical notes should be standard issue for anyone who sees Alan Rudolph's (The Moderns, Choose Me) look at the famous intellectuals who dotted New York's finest hour in the 1920s. If you only know the names of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, et al. in passing, this movie will hardly generate more study. These writers and thinkers, most famous for having lunch daily at the Algonquin Hotel, seem as weightless and thin as the fictional ones in The Moderns. Most luminous is Mrs. Parker (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whose passion for unhappiness is rarely interrupted. Leigh, in a performance that viewers seem to love or loathe, swirls "witty" dialogue with pure force and must be praised for keeping your interest in a life that was so dreary. The chief problem is not the performances (Campbell Scott is quite fun in a change-of-pace role); it's that the movie comes off as a taped show on stage: the characters are not real and it's all dress-up. Rudolph illustrates his main character's writing (done far too seldom in writers' bios) by having Leigh speak Parker's poetry directly into the camera. --Doug Thomas