The Event

If this bittersweet comedy about the mysterious death of a New York City musician seems a little anachronistic, it only goes to prove writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's point. The AIDS crisis isn't over, despite the fact that movies-of-the-week and noble Hollywood features on the subject are a thing of the past. Back on the job after taking bereavement leave...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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If this bittersweet comedy about the mysterious death of a New York City musician seems a little anachronistic, it only goes to prove writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's point. The AIDS crisis isn't over, despite the fact that movies-of-the-week and noble Hollywood features on the subject are a thing of the past. Back on the job after taking bereavement leave following the death of her father, assistant D.A. Nicole "Nick" Di Vivo (Parker Posey) is assigned to look into the death of Matthew Shapiro (Don McKellar), a well-known cellist who was found dead in his Chelsea apartment. His death looks like a routine suicide, but a few things about the case make Nick more than a little suspicious. Shapiro's toxicology report bears a striking resemblance to those of three other recent sudden deaths, and all four decedents were clients at an AIDS treatment center run by Matthew's friend, Brian (Brent Carver). All had been living with HIV, all were in the advanced stages of full-blown AIDS at the times of their deaths. After interviewing Matthew's mother, Lila (Olympia Dukakis), his younger sister, Dana (Sarah Polley), and a few of his friends, Nick begins to suspect that a crime was committed, but it was second-degree manslaughter, not murder. Assisted suicide, to be exact, a class C felony in the State of New York. Nick's suspicions are confirmed when Matthew's older sister Gaby (Joanna P. Adler) sends Nick a discarded invitation to "The Event," a celebration held at Matthew's apartment on the date of his death. It seems Matthew's friends not only helped him die, but threw him a big party at the same time. Having recently lost her father to a long, terminal illness, Nick is appalled; she can't understand why anyone would take such a cowardly way out, and is determined to bring whoever helped him do it to justice. Fitzgerald structures the film exactly like a police thriller, using the interrogation of suspects and multiple flashbacks to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding Matthew's death. At the same time, however, he reconstitutes the man's life and offers us a timely reminder of the devastation AIDS brings to everyone it touches. There's a lot of talent on display here: Dukakis has never been better and once again Fitzgerald proves himself to be a filmmaker of unfailing sensitivity, capable of transforming what could have been distastefully flip or overly lachrymose into something humorous but deeply heartfelt.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: If this bittersweet comedy about the mysterious death of a New York City musician seems a little anachronistic, it only goes to prove writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's point. The AIDS crisis isn't over, despite the fact that movies-of-the-week and noble Ho… (more)

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