Party Girl is a 1995 film directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer. It is notable as being the first commercial comedy-drama feature film shown in its entirety on the Internet. Scripted by Mayer with Harry Birckmayer and Sheila Gaffney, the storyline follows the misadventures of free-spirited Mary (Parker Posey) on her self-destructive path of drugs and parties. Arrested for illegally charging attendees at an underground rave, she calls upon her godmother, Judy Lindendorf (Sasha von Scherler), to bail her out. So Mary can repay the loan, Judy employs her as a clerk at the library where she works. Mary reluctantly begins her new job while striking up a romance with Lebanese street vendor Mustafa (Omar Townsend). The other men in her life are her friends Derrick (Anthony DeSando) and Leo (Guillermo Díaz), a DJ in clubs. Things begin to fall apart when she loses her library job and is evicted from her apartment. In the end, Mary decides to study to become a librarian herself but without compromising her own sense of style and happiness. Others in the cast are Donna Mitchell, as the club owner and Liev Schreiber.
‘I don’t have a job. I’m a loser. Shoot me!’
This pretty much sums up the early attitude of the title character in Party Girl, a new film by Daisy von Scherler Mayer, about the misadventures of a New York City diva who finds her life suddenly falling apart. Parker Posey plays Mary, the Party Girl in question, whose flair and style are matched only by her inability to do anything productive with her life.
Mary is an old-style slacker of the first degree. The picture opens with Mary hosting a party to cover this month’s rent, only to get busted by the cops and having to call her librarian godmother (Sasha von Scherler) to bail her out. Godmother takes pity and gives Mary a job as a library clerk, which seems to suit the carefree socialite like a designer muumuu. Interspersed with Mary’s quest to find her place in the fascinating world of library science, she frequents party after party, always in search of the hippest hangout and the ultimate cool time.
Party Girl is something of an allegory to the existentialist literature it refers to: Mary is in search of life’s meaning in a world which appears to have none. This New York is completely surreal, full of ultra-hip people and places that are usually too cute for their own good. In the end, Mary can’t find a shred of meaning in this world, so she turns to…the Dewey Decimal System. And it gets weirder than that, perhaps the most bizarre part of the film being an inexplicable romance Mary has with a street falafel vendor (Omar Townsend).
Party Girl ends up being a mostly-entertaining movie. It isn’t the raucous comedy it’s billed as, but the funny bits are worth the price of admission. Posey is electric, a consummate professional (and the only one in the cast who nails her lines every time). It’s incredible how she makes the most mundane thing look cool; the most enjoyable part of Party Girl just might be seeing what Posey is wearing in the next scene, and managing to outdo what she had on previously.
The film takes quite awhile to really get rolling, and that’s largely due to the relatively inexperienced supporting cast and the low low budget which allowed for only two takes of any scene. As a result, much of the movie’s dialogue is stilted and just doesn’t flow smoothly enough to convey the sarcastic wit all of these characters are supposed to be imbued with. The budget has also burdened Party Girl with some damaging sound problems.
Also, while Mary’s parties are to die for, her search for a career is uninspired. What begins as a comedic Mary vs. The World ends up being an overdramatic Mary vs. The Dewey Decimal System–not what I was expecting, and probably not what the audience wants to watch. I wish the filmmakers had taken Mary’s own advice here: ‘Lighten up! It’s a party!’