I first saw Parker Posey on As the World Turns somewhere around 1991. I remember that her character, Tess Shelby, was annoying as hell, and at the time I also found Posey to be annoying as hell. Once she left that soap opera I forgot all about her (and was glad her obnoxious character was out of the picture). Cut to 1993, the year Dazed and Confused came out; she had me at “AIR RAID!” I wanted to see more of her, but I didn’t get the chance to see another one of her films until Party Girl (1995). If you ask me, this was her breakout role and the beginning of her reign as Indie Princess.
In the film Posey plays Mary, an unemployed New York City scenester who makes her living throwing parties with a cover charge and cash bar at various locations around the city, including her own loft. Her party train comes to a crashing halt when she’s arrested while throwing her latest rent party and has to be bailed out by her librarian godmother, Judy (Sasha von Scherler). When Mary goes to the library to thank Judy for getting her out of the clink, Judy accuses her of being irresponsible and just like her mother, “a woman with no common sense.” To prove her wrong, Mary agrees to take a job as a clerk at the library.
Once she starts working, Judy takes every opportunity she can to criticize and judge her new clerk. Mary then becomes even more determined to be the best clerk, all while still trying to maintain the fun side of her life. After being fired for having sex in the library, she’s forced to sell her collection of designer clothes to pay the rent. To console herself, she throws a huge party at a warehouse and has a bad trip on “a nice, powerful, mind-altering substance.” When she wakes up the next morning, she decides she wants to change her life, leave the party girl behind, and convince Judy that she’s serious about becoming a librarian.
In addition to Posey’s fab performance, Party Girl boasts a great supporting cast, including Liev Schreiber as Mary’s British bouncer/bartender ex-boyfriend, Nigel; Guillermo Diaz as her DJ friend and temporary roommate, Leo; Anthony DeSando as Derrick, her gay friend on a mad hunt to find the one-night stand he really thought he connected with; Omar Townsend as her Lebanese, falafel-selling new boyfriend, Mustafa; and Donna Mitchell as recovering-alcoholic club owner Renee. This was the first film for director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, who went on to write for the TV series of the same name, which starred Christine Taylor as Mary and a pre-Hedwig John Cameron Mitchell as Derrick. The series aired on Fox in the fall of ’96, but didn’t make it past four episodes (I don’t even think I watched it).
As you can imagine, this film about a mid-’90s party girl has a soundtrack full of dance songs. Music is pretty important in Party Girl, not only because much of the film takes place in clubs and at parties, but also because one of the supporting characters is a DJ trying to land the perfect gig. There are some great scenes involving Leo and his quest for DJ superstardom, including a terrifying run-in with Renee when he makes the mistake of playing a record from a producer she specifically told him never to play.
As far as I can tell, the official soundtrack album, which contains dialogue from the film mixed in with the music, is out of print. (Sadly, so is the DVD.) I don’t have any tracks for you that didn’t make the official release, so you’ll just have to find those on your own.
The Wolfgang Press – Mama Told Me Not to Come
Tom Tom Club – Beautiful
Dawn Penn – You Don’t Love Me
Khaled – Les Ailes
Chanelle – I’ll Keep Coming Back
Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Big Apple Boogaloo
Nation of Abel – Anyone Could Happen to Me
Run-D.M.C. – Peter Piper
Basscut – To Be Loved
Mr. Fingers – Never Take Your Place
Deee-lite – Music Selector Is the Soul Reflector
Ultra Nate – Party Girl (Turn Me Loose)