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Film review: It's My Party

"It's My Party" is one of those noble low-budget efforts that probably had no trouble attracting an all-star cast for its ensemble, and Eric Roberts, who has the lead role, certainly gets an opportunity to flex his acting muscles more than he has in recent years.

But as conceived and directed by Randal Kleiser, best known for such pap as "The Blue Lagoon," "Grease" and "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid," the result is a glossy, superficial effort, laced with stilted dialogue and never quite able to deliver the emotional charge it promises.

Set in Los Angeles, the film begins as successful architect Nick (Roberts) is in a long-term relationship with filmmaker Brandon (Greg-ory Harrison). But when Nick tests HIV-positive, Brandon hits the road — after much squabbling.

Soon, Nick decides that he doesn't want to go through the deteriorating effects of AIDS, so he plans a party with friends and family, after which he will commit suicide. And during his last hours, he will reconcile with his long-estranged father (George Segal), comfort his grieving mother (Lee Grant), counsel his teenage gay nephew, etc., while everyone repeatedly tells Nick "what a great guy" he is.

The film has a dark comic sensibility — at the party, Nick sings, "It's my party and I'll die if I want to . . ." — that Kleiser tenuously mixes with melodrama and pathos, and which only occasionally works.

The cast is game — especially Roberts, whose tough-guy persona is quite the opposite of his attempt here at sensitivity. But most of the way, such talents as Grant, Marlee Matlin (as his sister) and Margaret Cho (his best friend) have little more to do than react to his wisecracks and look sad. Harrison fares best, as Nick's guilt-ridden lover, and their inevitable reconciliation is genuinely moving.

But much of the way, the film is tedious and plodding, especially in the protracted climax, which Kleiser stretches out, trying to wring out every last ounce of sentiment, or perhaps to give certain actors more screen time.

The result is a mixed bag that will probably have limited appeal.

"It's My Party" is rated R for nudity, profanity, vulgarity and drugs.