“The Event” is the handiwork of Thom Fitzgerald, whose prior claim to fame was the unrated 1999 film “Beefcake.” Never hesitating to turn his lens to unique or interesting subjects, he renovates “It’s My Party” into a murder mystery wherein the NY District Attorney’s office attempts to rout out the accomplices to an AIDS suicide… but Fitzgerald fails to make a timely film, reducing his tale to theatrics and sheer, almost objectionable, depression.
Parker Posey plays Assistant DA Nick DeVivo, seeking clues to the suspected AIDS suicide death of Matt Shapiro (played quite well by Don McKellar). In the course of her investigation, she investigates Matt’s friends and family, including his mother (Olympia Dukakis) and sisters (Sarah Polley and Joanna P. Adler), and attempts to bring indictments down on those who broke New York’s laws against complicity in helping another take their own life. Told in a non-linear fashion to support a mysterious double-conclusion, “The Event” is a treatise on both assisted suicide and on the lingering urgency of the AIDS crisis.
In the latter goal, Fitzgerald is somewhat successful. He superimposes the story against current (or recent) events – the terror attacks in New York, the availability and limited effectiveness of the newer AIDS drug regimens. Yet he shot the film presumably to look like a 1980s expose; that might have been an effective juxtaposition of imagery, but the script fails to support it, lending towards melodrama and sadness where bittersweet emotions might have served him far better.
As a statement on assisted suicide, the film is nearly an insult. If the NYPD wants to go after those assisting AIDS patients in their final life choices, I judge it a poor use of tax dollars and a questionable moral play at best. Personally, I don’t need a film which analyzes the relative ethics of such in interrogation, because the conversation need not be explored. It may be morally wrong to assist someone in committing suicide, but it’s fiscal and social folly to spend time executing a law preventing it.
Dukakis is exceptional, as always, standing out in the film as the center point of emotional veracity. Posey is less so – unfortunately, every time she drops a line she reminds me of “Waiting for Guffman” – in that spoof she played a bad actress, and I’m uncertain her real life career departs from that model. The rest of the cast is adequate, not superior.
It’s the piece that attempts to stand alone as the quintessential modern-day argument over its central themes – and were it not so, “The Event” would merely be a cheap impersonation of Eric Robert’s performance in “It’s My Party.” But Fitzgerald’s film has differentiators which, while worth discussing, would have played far better in other circumstances.