Kitchen Party (Carissa White)


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"What's so attractive about emotional instability?" laments one character in the comedy-drama Kitchen Party. What's so attractive indeed? But consider this: if we took all the mentally unstable people out of the dating pool there would be virtually no one left.

The film opens with an overhead shot of a woman vacuuming what appears to be a striped rug. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the rug is not striped, but rather that the woman has vacuumed a rigid, striped pattern into it. This is the most normal thing that happens during the entire film. It sets the stage for the main predicament of the movie-that the film's protagonist Scott (played by Scott Speedman of TV's Felicity) must keep his friends in the kitchen to avoid disturbing the immaculate carpet. C'mon, everybody knows how this ends: in the tradition of nearly every teenage house party-chaos.

Meanwhile, across town, Scott's parents are at a party of their own. Director Gary Burns cuts back and forth between these two parties as similar events happen at both. Feelings are hurt; egos are bruised and rivalry breaks out. Chances are, that if you enjoyed the cross-generational parallel narrative in the film The Ice Storm, you'll enjoy the similarities in Kitchen Party.

Even Thomas Hobbes knew about uncomfortable parties. In discussing human nature, he pointed out that no one wants to be the first to leave a party because people will talk about them once they're gone. Although Hobbes wrote in the seventeenth century, it seems that his logic still applies. While it's obvious that the parental party is going downhill quickly, everyone is reluctant to leave. The teenage party, though slightly more successful, is still rife with awkwardness. This stems from the fact that Scott can't allow for any trace of his friends (or himself, for that matter) to be left in the house. Highlights include a previous journey through a bedroom window to retrieve a vacuum cleaner; a pubic hair collection and a bullet that lands in a most unfortunate location (even for a bullet).

Scott's parents, Brent and Barb (who have had numerous small roles in television and film) are played by Kevin McNulty and Gillian Barber. Brent, in all his pink golf-shirted glory and Barb, with her pseudo-sophisticated talk are explanation enough for their children's dysfunction. This pair make Natural Born Killers Mickey and Mallory look like June and Ward Cleaver.

Scott's brother Steve (Jason Wiles) is a recluse living in the parents basement. In describing his educational direction his father says, "Steve's taking a political science degree. I thought I was paying for a Business degree. It might as well be an Art degree." Years of this sort of treatment by his parents lead Steve toward a mental breakdown in which he tears up the neighbourhood golf course and is taken into police custody.

After seeing his brother's psychological deterioration, Scott decides not to adhere to his parent's obsessive domestic order. In the triumphant final moments of the film, Scott metaphorically breaks through the barriers erected by himself and his parents. The last scene is a thrilling victory, both for the character and the audience alike.

In a clever move by the casting department, nearly every actor or actress in the film resembles someone infinitely more famous than themselves. We see clones for Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennie Garth, Chloe Sevigny and Christina Applegate, among others. Others just seem strangely familiar because of their numerous television appearances. Notably, many were frequent extras on The X-Files which, until this season, was filmed in Vancouver.

This is the director's second film. His first, The Suburbanators was called one of English Canada's coolest movies by Mondo Canuck. Its similar theme and plot development have rendered it a favourite at film festivals from Toronto to Sydney.

This film strikes a chord of recognition in its audiences. Everyone knows someone whose parents are a little anal-retentive, or even downright bizarre. While this film achieved critical acclaim it garnered little attention, which is unfortunate because this is an endlessly entertaining film and well worth 85 minutes.


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