200 Cigarettes

From Academic Kids

The 1999 film 200 Cigarettes stars Ben Affleck, Elvis Costello, Kate Hudson, Jay Mohr, Christina Ricci, Paul Rudd, Martha Plimpton, Casey Affleck, Courtney Love, Dave Chappelle, Janeane Garofalo, Guillermo Diaz, Gaby Hoffmann, Catherine Kellner, Brian McCardie, Nicole Parker and Angela Featherstone.

The film follows various plot arcs all occurring on New Years Eve of 1981. The central character is Monica (Plimpton) who is throwing a big New Years bash that she is desperately afraid no one will attend. As of early evening the only person to have arrived is her friend Hillary (Kellner). As she desperately tries to convince Hillary to stay, we learn about various other groupings of individuals who are all in one way or another on their way to the party.

Long Island teens Val (Ricci) and Stephie (Hoffmann) have lied to their parents and said they are spending the night at each other's houses. In reality they are venturing into Manhattan alone in an attempt to find Monica's party (Monica is Val's cousin.) They managed to get lost in a bad part of town and wander into a punk rock club where they meet Dave (Diaz) and Tom (Casey Affleck,) two dirty punks who have a "package" they need to deliver. The foursome wanders around town attempting to get rid of this mysterious delivery so they can head on to the party.

Meanwhile the ditzy Cindy (Hudson) meets up with the paranoid Jack (Mohr) for a dinner date. The two had a one-night stand the night before and it is revealed that Jack was Cindy's first sexual experience. Jack becomes obsessively fascinated with this fact, something that at first embarrassed Cindy but later infuriates her. After a long and unproductive date (during which Cindy becomes more and more disheveled by way of repeated unfortunate accidents,) Cindy leaves Jack in a cloud of fury. It seems that this is not the first time Jack has "de-virginized" a woman and he isn't really interested in Cindy for who she is.

While all of this is going on, Lucy (Love) has met up with her best friend Kevin to celebrate the New Year. Alternating between a bar (where they quickly become drunk) and a diner, the two begin to reveal stronger-than-friendship feelings and agree to have sex with one another that evening. (A superstition that permeates all of the story lines is that if one does not have sex on New Year's Eve they will be forcibly celebate for the entire oncoming year.) Unfortunately Kevin is still hung up on feminist ex-girlfriend Ellie (Garofalo,) who just happens to walk in on Kevin and Lucy mid-coitus in a restroom stall. Eventually Kevin and Lucy get into a fight because Lucy has real feelings for Kevin, whereas Kevin's intentions are unclear. (Lucy also manages to flirt up a bartender, played by Ben Affleck, who she tells about Monica's party.)

As if this weren't enough to follow, in the same bar as Lucy and Kevin are Bridget (Parker,) Caitlyn (Featherstone) and Eric (McCardie). Eric and Bridget are in a relationship but during a moment when Eric leaves the table Caitlyn confesses to Caitlyn that she is going to break up with him because he is extremely bad in bed. (This after Caitlyn has slipped him her number in a matchbook which she quickly schemes to retrieve.) After being ditched on a big holiday, Eric retreats to Monica's party where he, now much later in the evening, is officially only the second guest to show.

As Monica nears a nervous breakdown she must now also deal with her paranoid ex-boyfriend and confess to him that, yes, he is lousy in the sack. Hillary returns (after having bailed on the dead-end party) only to find a shirtless and vulnerable Eric pitying himself. The two begin to flirt as Monica retreats into the bedroom and passes out.

What follows is a montage of all of the characters arriving in various formations. In no particular order they are: Jack, Lucy, Tom, Caitlyn, Ellie, Stephie, Cindy, Lucy, Bridget, Monica, Val, Kevin and the nameless Bartender. (Already there are Hillary and Eric.) Also in attendance is the "Disco Cabbie," a minor character who has coincidentally been the driver that has taken all of our characters around town throughout the evening.

We cut to a shot of Monica waking up in the morning to a destroyed apartment. There are passed out people on the ground, including Stephie who tells her what a big hit her party was. Monica is thrilled (even though she missed it all,) especially when she finds out that her crush Elvis Costello showed up. As the film finishes we see whom everyone has ended up with for their big sexual liaison of the evening, and it is not what we might have expected.

Val has ended up with Jack; Caitlyn and the cab driver; Bridget with the bartender; Tom with Cindy; Ellie with Elvis; Hillary with Eric; and Kevin with Lucy. (Dave was left passed out on a couch somewhere by the Hudson river.) The final montage shows "poloroids" of the party in question, mostly featuring the unconscious Monica being propped up by her party guests.

The film was a huge critical failure, universally panned. Commercially it turned a profit of less than $1,000,000 before video release.

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