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By Merle Bertrand | April 4, 2002

“Last Party 2000” is an updated version of 1993’s “Last Party.” Both films explore the meaning of democracy and the diversity of its expression during the 1992 and 2000 presidential election seasons respectively. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman takes over the role originally filled by Robert Downey, Jr. and provides an amazingly candid and insightful look at the contemporary American political process.
Hoffman guides us through players big and small across both ends of our political landscape as the competing camps stake out their positions. As we sit in with him at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, it soon becomes chillingly and depressingly apparent just how shallow these positions are. Fortunately, directors Donovan Leitch and Rebecca Chaiklin don’t stop at the surface, choosing instead to dig down into the likes of Ralph Nadar’s Green Party on the Left, for instance, or gun show participants on the Right to broaden our perspective in a way mainstream politicians don’t want to allow.
There are two diametrically opposite schools of thought when it comes to this thought provoking film. The optimists/activists would argue that someone should make a “Last Party” every four years; that the film serves as an important reminder of how precious our democracy is and how pressing are our national concerns.
The pessimists/apathetics out there will say that since the problems are so overwhelming, pervasive and divisive, that a film like “Last Party 2000” is redundant and merely stating the obvious.
The view from here is that both points of view are valid, which is precisely what makes this such a powerful, disturbing, and blackly comical documentary. Hoffman’s perfect in his role as our tour guide. Many of the film’s most priceless moments, in fact, come from the look of utter incredulity on his face as he reacts to a particularly horrific comment from some dim-witted politician or ill-informed man on the street.
Both Democrats and Republicans take it on the chin here, although the left-leaning bias is obvious, (not that the Far Right loonies need any additional help looking by turns utterly ridiculous and terrifying).
With plenty to tick off or scare the bejeezus out of just about everyone, “Last Party 2000” provides the proverbial icing on the cake with its actual election day denouement. Here, the film unflinchingly shows just how badly democracy got raped in the Florida debacle. A sad but true ending that, while it makes this already excellent film even more poignant and important, also shows us why “Last Party 2000” and other films like it are so screamingly relevant to America.

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