The Anniversary is an enjoyable and well made first attempt at a feature film. A likable lead, great chemistry between the cast members and a nice dose of heart and truth to go along with the laughs.
Screen Rant's Ross Miller reviews The Anniversary
The Anniversary marks the first feature film from writer/director John Campea, former founder and editor of The Movie Blog and now Senior Editor of AMC's Script-To-Screen. After having tested the film-making waters with his interesting and sometimes controversial documentary Prince of Peace, God of War, he's moved into the realm of film comedy. And for a first time foray into the genre, this is solid work.
The film follows Cid, a down on his luck 30-something who gets dumped by his long-time girlfriend on their 15th anniversary. One year later (exactly one year later as the film comically points out), Cid is still recovering from the break up - and with help from his friends decides to dive into the world of dating (he's never been in a relationship with anyone but his former girlfriend because they've been dating since high school).
That's pretty much it for the plot, and on paper it may not sound like much. But the point of the movie isn't just about "what happens next" but rather the issues and themes it deals with. Some examples are the nature of relationships, how some folks can stay together forever and be happy while others can't find love, and just what you're "supposed" to do as a respectable adult. The latter is what our lead character, Cid, faces: He's a 34-year-old man whose only ever had one relationship that he could never commit to taking to the next level ("Who dates for 15 years?," his girlfriend angrily quizzes him during the film's opening scene).
The themes are dealt with in a way that belies the little experience Campea has. It seems these sorts of things have happened in the director's life at some point, and that gives the film a certain truth and realism. Getting these kinds of feelings across is also largely helped by lead Jason Contini, who brings a likeable everyman quality to the role. In a film like this it's important that its leading man embody that and Contini really does.
However, as much as the film is about love, relationships, heartbreak and all that jazz, it's also a genuinely funny film. It's not wall-to-wall, from start to finish hilarious but it has the sorts of laughs that ring true. There's a bit too much use of the f-word throughout, and the pop culture references seem sort of forced a lot of the time (in particular one involving Star Wars), but for the most part the comedy comes from an honest place.
The highlight of the movie in terms of comedy definitely comes from Manolis Zontanos. Playing a character with the same name as his own (why change such an awesome name, that's what I say), Zontanos is crude, shocking and unabashedly in-your-face with a lot of the things he says. Some of the highlights of the entire movie are when he and co-star Dan Callahan are sitting on the couch debating everything from online dating to what might happen to a man if he were in prison (if you catch my meaning). The crudeness level is maybe just a little bit high, as I said, and most of that comes from Zontanos' but almost every time he opens his mouth I was at least chuckling.
As with Zontanos, Campea's other cast members are all relatively unknown - but that's perhaps part of its charm. Everyone has great chemistry, with Ashley Oxford (as one of Cid's helpful friends) and Julia Voth (as a potential new girlfriend) standing out in particular. All the ladies are not exactly sore on the eyes, either. On top of the more central characters, the film also features some nice "pop-in" characters to provide some of the one-liners. The one who springs to mind is Gavin Grazer as Cid's boss - whose misogyny is only bested by Manolis' character. The Anniversary most importantly has a cast that gels well. If a comedy doesn't have that, things more often than not fall apart quickly. Thankfully that's not the case here.
Overall The Anniversary is an enjoyable comedy and an impressive first feature from Campea. It's not going to go down in history as one of the all time comedy classics, but for what it is I had a good time watching it. The cast all work well together, the soundtrack is catchy, the comedy for the most part is well timed (some unnecessary crudeness aside) and it deals with things that many people out there can identify with. A solid start that proves that Campea has what it takes.
Check out the trailer for The Anniversary below (beware it's NSFW):