Party Girl (1995) — From boogies to book shelving


Justin’s rating: Ironically, I have a late fee for this movie that goes back three decades

Justin’s review: In retrospect, I feel kind of bad that we here at Mutant Reviewers never gave Parker Posey any sort of award. If you needed an acerbic yet snarky presence in your cult indie flick, Posey was your gal. She certainly spiced up flicks like Kicking and Screaming, Dazed and Confused, and Josie and the Pussycats, and I never regret seeing her name in the opening credits.

In Party Girl, Posey is Mary, an aimless 20-something in New York who seems to have only a couple of passions: dressing to the nines and hitting the party scene hard. Admittedly, she’s very good at both of these things, but neither pays the rent — nor the bail, apparently. Desperate for money, she takes up an offer of a clerk job from her librarian godmother. It’s dull, repetitive work that Mary feels is beneath her, and she goes into it with all of the petulance of a toddler being told to brush her teeth before bed.

As the difficult but likable Mary struggles to keep her party girl spirit even as her day job saturates her in the printed word, she also starts to fall for that really cute falafel cart guy down the street. Like Mary, Falafel Guy might be a lot smarter than his menial job suggests, and the two seemingly have an instant bond.

Posey has a lot of fun in this role, although about 40% of it is dancing around during various scenes and being a little too lippy with her godmother — a woman, I should mention, is bending over backwards to help Mary.

Party Girl hits upon that moment in our lives where we start to trade our (self-perceived) coolness and identity of youth for maturity, job skills, and growing up. But can you make that transition while still retaining the parts of you that you like best?

That’s Mary’s struggle as she discovers — to her horror — that she’s actually pretty good at this library stuff. In a way, this movie flips the usual script of the bookish person discovering their wild side, so I appreciate the change-up. Where party girl meets library girl, a good ending gradually looms into view.

(This leads to a hilarious scene where Mary organizes her roommate’s extensive DJ vinyl collection by the Dewey Decimal System, which understandably freaks him out… until he tries it.)

This isn’t a really deep film, but it is a breezy ride. Mary’s expressive wardrobe, her outraged quotes, and the film’s infectious house soundtrack make it an easy recommendation. It’s far less angsty than a lot of Gen X flicks from the era, for which I give great thanks.

Didja notice?

  • Apparently, Party Girl was the first feature film to debut on the internet. Wow your friends with that trivia!
  • Partially busted for copied VHS tapes — and then she uses a rotary telephone. This movie isn’t dated at all!
  • “What do you want me to do, huh? I don’t have a job, I’m a loser, shoot me!”
  • Dewey Decimal System vertigo shot
  • Oh hey, it’s Liev Schreiber with a terrible accent!
  • Being bored is a dancing move
  • Learning Lebanese to court the falafel guy
  • “Derek, do you think I’d make a good investment banker?”
  • The stack of Sisyphus books
  • “I think I’m an existentialist. I do.”
  • Imitate a cat puke
  • What happens when a DJ drops the music
  • Learning the library system montage — complete with desk dancing
  • Don’t randomly put books on shelves in libraries, that enrages the help
  • Don’t play Teddy Rogers in her flub
  • So many amazing outfits
  • The Dewey Decimal System can be applied to records
  • That’s a pretty funny shower scene
  • It’s a bookalanche!

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