Wes Anderson: We open with an invitation, the old-fashioned kind, simple wording in Futura font. You are cordially invited to Sandra’s 21st Birthday Soiree. “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by The Velvet Underground and Nico plays.
You wake up in a tidy yet cluttered room, decorated haphazardly yet completely symmetrically with vintage items and vaguely pastel colors. You try on outfits in the mirror, eventually settling on the one that you wear almost every day: something with stripes, probably, in a half-size too small (barely discernible), with large glasses. You look at yourself with a deadpan expression. “I’m twenty-one today,” you say. You exhale through your nostrils.
David Lynch: The doorbell rings. Unnerving CLOSE UP on your worried face. You walk the long, oddly-shaped corridor to the foyer. A figure moves just outside the door, you can only somewhat make out the shape of the visitor. The doorbell rings again, reverberating through your empty home. Why does a twenty-one-year-old live alone in a huge scary house? No one knows.
The door slowly opens without you touching it. The man outside is white-pale, stands with Laura Dern, dressed gaudily, who smiles and pours out nervous compliments. “You opened the door,” says the pale man, whom you suddenly realize is holding a wrapped present.
You reach out for the present, open the top, and peer inside. It takes your breath away. Inside is another front door, with guests waiting. You look around, panicked, sweat building on your brow.
“Well?” Says the pale-man, smiling. “Open it.”
Sofia Coppola: You open the door, and a hoard of awkward, smiling teens walk in. They compliment you and your house. You all smile at one another. Someone’s hand on the record player. A dreamy Phoenix song starts playing. Someone with well-manicured nails selects a decadent cupcake. You all drink sangria and smile meaningfully (or not) as the light streams in through the windows. You play spin-the-bottle. Kirsten Dunst is there. No one actually has a conversation.
Ben Affleck: Everyone starts speaking with Boston accents.
PT Anderson: “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Croft (or some equally popular and evocative 70’s hit) plays. The rest of the guests arrive, all shapes and sizes, all talking over each other at various volumes. “Did you cut the cake yet?” “How old are you?” “Who are you?” “Remember when…” “You look hot today” “Look at my nail polish” “I brought ice cream, let’s make milkshakes.” A girl passes out. A man threatens suicide. There’s someone on rollerskates, and some shrieking charlatan, but they all seem related, somehow. It’s hard to keep up. You feel overwhelmed, frenzied, confused and elated by the onslaught. But maybe this is how it feels to be 21: unsure of what to do or who to talk to. Maybe this is life. Maybe. Maybe we’re all connected. Maybe this all means something.
Or maybe not.
David O. Russell: Everyone starts conversing about their lives as if they were on speed. Let’s face it, they probably are. You have a sudden desire to punch George Clooney in the face.
Jennifer Lawrence is there, drinking and rubbing her temples. “I remember when I was 21,” she says, sighing. “Um,” you say. “Aren’t you like, 23?” “Psh,” she says, with a hoarse, tired, slightly irregularly accented voice as she raises a glass of hard liquor to her lips, “I’m 50.”
Baz Luhrman: Everyone is dancing suddenly! What a great party! Splices of old and new music play as if you just hired a manic DJ, but you have no idea where the music is coming from!!! Maybe it’s coming from behind that red curtain? NO ONE CARES!! Everyone is in love!! DANCE DANCE AUSTRALIA DANCE! WHY IS TOBEY MAGUIRE HERE, HE’S NO FUN! GET HIM OUT! OKAY! NOW WE’RE DANCING SOME MORE, EVEN THOUGH WE MIGHT BE SAD IT DOESN’T MATTER! DANCE DANCE DANCE LIKE IT’S THE NINETIES AND WE’RE ALL ON DRUGS!!!!!! CHAMPAGNE TOWERS FOR EVERYONE!!! AUSTRALIAAAAAA
Steven Spielberg: You have your first shot of the evening. You throw it back– an epic, sweeping score by John Williams comes in– and the room goes bright and shiny. Everything is magical, suddenly. So magical. You remember being a kid. You remember your dad. You remember your adventures. You cry happy tears, but not for long, because everything is too magical. So magical. Everyone sings happy birthday to you and you blow out the candles. Someone records this on an ancient video camera; it’s grainy and sooooo magical.
Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu: You quickly excuse yourself to the bathroom, where you start talking to yourself in the mirror. You remind you that this party is about YOU, your life, your journey. You you you. Suddenly, the bathroom seems wildly fanciful and gorgeous, and you’re gorgeous, and inanimate objects seem like the most beautiful foreign objects. Your toilet paper roll starts talking to you. You realize you must have a bad case of beer goggles. You ponder suicide.
You stumble out of the bathroom and down the hall in one take, it takes you about fifteen minutes. You almost trip over your bear rug, which comes to life and tries to attack you. All of this has to mean something, but no one bothers to make it clear what that is.
Gus Van Sant: When you return to the living room, everyone is high on black tar heroin or something and talking about their terrible dads. It’s not their fault.
Peter Jackson: The party almost ends five times, but not quite. Some very short, cute people pass through on their way to somewhere.
Kathryn Bigelow: You realize Osama Bin Ladin and Jessica Chastain are having it out in the foyer. Things are a little tense. Not about to walk into that minefield, you suggest cutting the cake.
Quentin Tarantino: PART 13: The Cake Cutter
You get the cake knife out of the trunk of your car. “In The Year 2525” by Zager and Evans (or something equally awesome, old, and obscure) starts playing as you slowly approach the cake, eyes wide. You are gonna cut that cake. That cake is gonna get it. In like, 20 minutes, that cake is gonna get what’s coming to it. With the cake knife. IT’S CAKE CUTTING TIME, MOTHERF#%*ERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But first, you stop to have a conversation with your eldest party guest, whom you haven’t seen in years, not since his glory days, really, when he used to be the most popular person at birthday parties. No one really talks about him anymore, but as you chat you wonder why. He’s awesome. The two of you have a 40-minute chat about cutting the cake, and also life, movies, music, and birthday parties of the past that no one really remembers anymore but DANG those were some good parties. Kind of like this party. So much like this party. You wish this party WAS one of those parties, but really, it’s just like, I dunno, THE BEST parts of those parties, all rolled into one killer party. Talk talk talk talk talk talk.
Oh right, WELL NOW IT’S CAKE CUTTING TIME, MOTHERF#$%ERS!!!!
You leap upon the cake, slicing at it haphazardly. FROSTING IS EVERYWHERE. IT’S A CAKE MASSACRE! EVERYONE FOR HIMSELF!! YOU’RE THE MAN! YOU’RE THE CAKE-CUTTER! YOU ARE THE CAKE CUTTER. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOTHERF#$%ER!!!!!!!!!!
James Cameron: You open a series of gigantic birthday presents, each one more of a spectacle than the ones prior. You’re wasted by this point, and everything you say is ridiculous, but no one cares because they spent an awful lot of money on those movies. Er, presents. And darn it if they don’t look awesome. You put on your 3D glasses and everything looks even cooler.
JJ Abrams: You and your guests watch the sun go down from the window. There’s like, 20 lens flares. You wonder how you managed to recreate the childhood joy of so many birthdays of the past.
David Fincher: It’s dark. So dark. Tomorrow is coming. It’s coming, you know it, they know it, and there’s nothing any of you can do about it. Suddenly you feel cynical about life. Everyone looks a little bit ugly in the glow of the evening. Maybe everyone IS just a little bit ugly. You set fire to your party napkin. The garish word “HAPPY” quickly (YET SLOWLY SOMEHOW) darkens, then disappears into the flame and darkness. The party is over.
The Coen Brothers: You jolt awake, finding yourself on the floor of the living room. Everyone has left you; you’re deserted. A tumbleweed rolls by. The place is in shambles, dirty, lonely. There’s a body in the corner, which you find weirdly hilarious. John Goodman is there, suddenly, sitting on your couch and flipping a coin.
“Birthdays, huh? I’ll tell you about birthdays. I had a birthday once. Never thought it was worth celebrating. You know who else had a birthday? Jesus. You know who else? The devil.”
You ponder this. We are all born, after all.
Chris Nolan: You reach out for one of your birthday presents– a spinning top. Without pondering who would give you a spinning top (what, did you make a pit stop at Dollar General on your way to the party?!), you give it a twirl. As you watch it skitter across the tile, you wonder: if this party never happened, would you have to clean it up?
It was a dream. Totally a dream. You go back to sleep.