Quintessential Movies :: 200 Cigarettes (1999)

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Quintessential Movies :: 200 Cigarettes (1999)
Written by Shana Larsen
Directed by Risa Bramon Garcia

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A Little History:

200 Cigarettes is an American ensemble comedy holiday film directed by Risa Bramono Garcia, and written by Shana Larson. The film is a mosaic following multiple characters in New York City on New Year’s Eve, 1981. The film has an ensemble cast, and includes a cameo by Elvis Costello, as well as paintings by Sally Davies.

The film follows various plot arcs all occurring on New Year’s Eve of 1981. Monica (Martha Plimpton) is throwing a big New Year’s bash and is desperately afraid no one will attend. Early on the only person to have arrived is her friend Hillary (Catherine Kellner). As she tries to convince Hillary to stay, we learn about various other groupings of individuals who are all on their way.

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The film follows several characters as they spend New Year’s Eve in New York City before eventually showing up at Monica’s party. The characters are: Val (Christina Ricci) and Stephie (Gaby Hoffmann), teens from Ronkonkoma who get lost in the seedy Alphabet City section of the borough and wander into a punk club where they meet Dave (Guillermo Diaz) and Tom (Casey Affleck), who have a “package” they need to deliver.

Ditsy and awkward Cindy (Kate Hudson) is on a dinner date with the paranoid Jack (Jay Mohr). Lucy (Courtney Love) and her best friend Kevin (Paul Rudd) are struggling with the sexual tension between them, and Kevin’s feminist ex-girlfriend Ellie (Janeane Garofalo), walks in on Kevin and Lucy making out in a restroom stall.

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A dim-witted and flirtatious bartender (Ben Affleck) is part of the story, as are competitive friends Bridget (Nicole Ari Parker) and Caitlyn (Angela Featherstone) who attempt to ditch Bridget’s boyfriend Eric (Brian McCardie) who is also Monica’s ex-boyfriend. And there is also an eccentric cab driver (Dave Chappelle) who takes them all around town throughout the evening in his disco themed taxi.

During filming Casey Affleck mentioned to Kate Hudson that Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits was one of his favorite love songs. Hudson secretly convinced the director to play the song during Affleck and Hudson’s characters final scene together as a surprise for him. Casey Affleck didn’t find out until he watched the movie at the premiere.

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The title of the film, 200 Cigarettes, is a reference to a carton of cigarettes. 10 packs per carton, 20 cigarettes per pack.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

I love ensemble films, especially if the stories work well on their own, and connect together in some way by the end. I love films like this the way I love short story collections. Also, I am a sucker for a good holiday film, one that is unconventional, not overly sentimental, but full of heart all the same – and this one is that to me.

I co-hosted a party once where myself, and my co-host, fell asleep before the party really got going. When we woke all the caffeine int he house was gone – all of it – coffee, diet Coke, etc. Though there was plenty of booze still left. We made a joke that a friend of ours, who we deemed the Elvis Costello of the night, must have shown up after we passed out, and this was how he’d left our mark. This movie always reminds me of that night, and makes me smile.

Every time I watch this film I ask myself whose New Year’s Eve I’d want to inhabit, or at least tag-a-long with. My answer changes often. Today, though, on the Eve-Eve of New Year’s, I’d pick to be a part of Lucy and Kevin’s story.

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The desperation of finding someone

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