Movie review: 'The Event'

MoviesEntertainmentHIV - AIDSDeathFencingSportsParker Posey

2 stars (out of 4)

My Parker-Posey-love-o-meter was completely knocked out of whack upon learning that Posey - the indie world's Julia Roberts, with movies like "The House of Yes," "The Anniversary Party" and "Best in Show" under her thrift-store belt - will star in "Blade: Trinity," the follow-up to "Blade II," which was the sequel to "Blade." And Posey's latest small-budget, small-scale film, "The Event," did little to recalibrate it.

In fact, after sitting through her robotic performance as Nick, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, I now look forward to seeing Posey - who plays weird and anxious and quirky and awkward and sexy and cerebral so well - do the vampire thing next to Wesley Snipes.

"The Event" is an AIDS movie, filmed by Thom Fitzgerald in depressing grays and browns and set in the present (a Gore for President window sticker is the only clue), though ideologically stuck in the past, when the disease devastated gay Manhattan.

Nick is investigating the death of Matt Shapiro (Don McKellar), whose passing was assumed a suicide and whose last leg of life was ravaged by AIDS - a demise depicted as a soap opera-worthy road to death for a sweet, talented, stricken young man. Her suspects include Matt's best friend Brian (Brent Carver), who runs an AIDS clinic in Chelsea, and his supportive mother Lila and younger sister Dana (Olympia Dukakis and Sarah Polley, in the film's only real and moving performances).

The character of Nick is most purely a device used to tell Matt's story, with each interview she conducts a chance for another flashback. It's a tired format, wilted even further by Posey's passionless performance. Without a hint of nuance, Posey plays the role like it's her first week as the new female D.A. on "Law and Order" - stiff, one-dimensional, vacant.

Nick's investigation leads her early on to The Event, Matt's going-away party, where his friends and family did or did not assist him in killing himself. So with Matt dead from the beginning and the party's existence out of the bag 10 minutes into the film, we're left with very little intrigue.

The distinction between assisted and unassisted suicide still carries much weight in the legal and public courts of opinion, though if you fail to see why, the filmmakers are too lazy to show you. In what could have been a compelling movie about one of the most contested issues of our day, it's not the debate that's up for debate.

I didn't love Tony Kushner's recent foray into film, his AIDS work "Angels in America." It was overwrought and its concepts elusive at times, but at least it made me think about forgiveness and death and faith and politics, all in a screen adaptation of a play from the early '90s.

But to make a movie in 2003, one that centers around AIDS but ignores the epidemic's current culprit, Africa, and toys melodramatically with scenarios steeped in the filmmakers' selfish nostalgia without any real point, is to ask us not to think at all. Just sit, feel a little blue and watch Parker Posey wander through New York in an ugly conservative suit.

In "Blade," at least she'll get a snazzier wardrobe.

"The Event"
Directed by Thom Fitzgerald; written by Fitzgerald, Tim Marback, Steven Hillyer; photographed by Thomas M. Harting; edited by Christopher Cooper; music by Christophe Beck; produced by Fitzgerald, Bryan Hofbauer. A ThinkFilm release; opens Friday, Dec. 19. Running time: 1:52. MPAA rating: R (sexual content, language and some drug use).
Nick - Parker Posey
Lila - Olympia Dukakis
Matt - Don McKellar
Dana - Sarah Polley
Brian - Brent Carver
Mona - Jane Leeves

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