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The Party's Over (Last Party 2000) (2001)

  Directed by: Rebecca Chaiklin, Donovan Leitch
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Links: The Party's Over on the IMDb
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 7.50 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 81st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Michael Moore Lite: Half the calories, nearly as filling" - a review by mino

Philip Seymour Hoffman as political agitator and agent provocateur, Michael Moore-style? Yep, sounds weird. But that's more or less what The Party's Over is, and it's really quite successful at it.

Hoffman, who claims to be totally uninterested in politics except at election times, sets off to give a bit of an insight into the American political processes surrounding the 2000 election — both the ‘official’ processes (like the party conventions) and the ‘unofficial’, like protests and the ‘Shadow Convention’ which run in parallel with them. Interspersed is some background coverage of other events influencing the US political scene at that time (the WTO protests in Seattle, the Million Mom March) and some interviews with various people, including politicians, religious leaders, academics and miscellaneous celebrities (including the usual suspects, like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins).

It's pretty hard to avoid the comparisons to Moore, obviously. Like Moore's films (caveat: I haven't yet seen Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), but I'm familiar with much of Moore's other work), Hoffman takes a similar ‘man in the street’ approach, presenting himself (however accurately) as a bit of an everyman, just a regular guy who likes having a poke around in the political process and stirring up a bit of trouble while he's there. Hoffman is a lot ‘gentler’ than Moore, though, with the imposition of his own views (don't be fooled: he's far from impartial) rather less pronounced, and his shit-stirring very mild in comparison.

Like Moore, much of what Hoffman comes up with here needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Propaganda of this type, while not offensive to me politically (I tend to agree with much of what Hoffman and Moore express), certainly does rub me up the wrong way, because it's so manipulative. When a film talks about how we are maniuplated by politicians and the media into thinking a certain way, for it to then use the same tactics is understandable — obviously, these tactics work — but still feels slimy, in much the same way the original manipulation does. Hoffman, along with directors Rebecca Chaiklin and Donovan Leitch, certainly uses many of the same sly tricks Moore is accused of — fancy editing, screwing with timelines, very selective pruning of what people say and do — and, assuming you see through it, that kind of irritates. One scene in particular, where Hoffman interviews a group of schoolchildren and seems intent to prod them towards a certain set of answers and opinions, which is such an emptily emotive technique that it really takes that section of the film down a peg.

The filmmakers manage to get some truly great footage, particularly at the protests, and Hoffman is a very affable and pleasant frontman, with a manner which is much less likely to cause offence than Moore's sometimes abrasive personality. That said, his points are rather less effective for it, which points at an interesting trade-off which reveals much of the problem with Moore: the more effective you are at making your point, the easier it is to dismiss your views as the strident and biased ranting of a madman.

The Party's Over is certainly interesting, though for any students of the US political scene — particularly those who lean to the left — there's probably not much new here. While some of the celebrities Hoffman talks to are quite minor, they all express quite interesting viewpoints, particularly legend of the left (and everyone's favourite transformational grammarian) Noam Chomsky and media personality Bill Maher. I would have liked to have seen more of The Interpreters, a rather wacky rock band who help Hoffman and Co. out of a tight spot, and threaten at one stage to turn the movie into This is Spinal Tap (1984) with their antics. Correspondingly, the regular people — protesters, convention delegates, and just regular joes off the street — are very interesting, and Hoffman has quite the knack for getting information out of them.

The Party's Over is an interesting insight into US politics, and a revelatory glimpse at another side of one of my favourite actors. It's not without its flaws, though, and as with any sort of political media, viewers would be well-advised to question everything they see therein.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 4 Aug 2004

"Telling it like it is" - a review by pearly

A documentary about politics about the time of the year 2000 Presidential election in the USA, narrated and headed up by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sound weird? It did to me, when I first heard of it. But there you go, it exists, and it's called either Last Party 2000 or The Party's Over, depending on when you first heard of it.

The basic concept of the film is that it's an explorative piece to do with all aspects of politics, and a little bit more on the side. It consists of various vox pops and (mainly impromptu) interviews with various people, be they experts, or not, on various topics to do with politics and the election. Among other things, the environment, abortion, organic produce, education, Democrats versus Republics, and the Greens party are discussed in a sort of free-flowing style which moves on from one thing to another just when you're about to get bored of the former. It's almost like a brief presentation of many of the hot topics of the time, all in an easily digestible format, perfect for the short attention spans of Generation X.

And over the top of it all is the voiceover by Hoffman, telling you what the deal is, and all in his vaguely monotone, slightly bored sounding voice. Some of the stuff he's saying is pretty powerful, but his voice kinda lulls you into this cosy little place - quite different to the over-the-top hoorah! hoorah! hoorah! style of Michael Moore, the films of which this documentary is most likely to be compared.

That's not to say that these films are all that different; in many ways, they're not. But what is different about The Party's Over is that Hoffman presents a more rough and ready version of what Moore would produce. The Party's Over is more out in the streets talking to the real people, and as such, it feels a little more natural, and maybe more believable. At the very least, it's presented as more of an editorial, with Hoffman just asking whatever questions he feels are appropriate, and, basically, the things that he wants to know of certain people.

To a certain extent, I'm a bit over documentaries about America. I don't live there, so much of what is being said is not relevant to me, especially things like the results of an election. But we do all live on the same Earth, and I'll bet that a lot of the issues brought up in the film could also be said about Australia, just in slightly different contexts.

I really enjoyed the interviews with both Noam Chomsky and Bill Maher. I also liked all the interviews with the famous people - people like Tim Robbins, Eddie Vedder, and Scott Weiland - not because I necessarily respect their opinion or think that they know better than I do, but because the interviews were presented in basically the same manner as those with people off the street - they were just getting these people's opinions on the matters, and you could either agree or disagree with what was said.

In this, the year of the documentary, I'm viewing The Party's Over as just another one in the batch, but in truth, it was made a little before the boom, so further props go to Hoffman for what must have been a fairly ambitious project at the time. Plus, as he seemed to be able to be in about 3 places at once, I'd like to know what kind of time travel device he was using, because I'd really like to be at home in bed right now.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 4 Aug 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 7.50
Lowest rating: 7 (by mino)
Highest rating: 8 (by pearly)
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