It's My Party was Olivia's movie from 1995. It's directed by Randal Kleiser, who directed Olivia in Grease. The film is inspired by Kleiser's personal experience - his long-time lover Harry Stein (the name of this character in the film has been changed to Nick Stark) who committed suicide after a serious bout with an AIDS-related brain disorder.
Eric Roberts plays the lead role, he gets all his friends and family together at a party to say goodbye before a friend in the medical profession helps him die with dignity. Other stars in the movie include George Segal, Roddy McDowall, Lee Grant and Marlee Matlin.
Olivia says of working with Kleiser: "Randal makes everyone feel calm and comfortable like no other director I've ever worked with. He has quiet control of the set, and because of that things are tension-free."
Olivia does not play the lead role, she describes her role as: a very nice part. "Eric Roberts is the lead and I play one of his best friends - (in the movie). I've known him since college and I've always been in love with him, or been very keen on him, but he was gay and I was a woman so it never worked out. I'm married and I have a son who is coming out and my husband and I are getting divorced, so there's a lot of subtext going on. It was challenging for me in that it was probably the first serious thing I've done - because the Christmas tele-movies were kind of light - so for me that was important."
The film was shot on a tight budget of $3 million and Randal called in top stars to play the roles for little pay. Olivia jumped at the chance to play her character because she could draw parallels with her fight against breast cancer: I've lost friends to AIDS. I've been in the room when my best friends brother died, so it struck a chord with me. Maybe if I had not gone through that (the cancer) this film would not have struck a chord in me. But I knew I could relate - and I could relate to the humor very much. Some people find that strange, but I remember when I first had cancer, I used to ring my friends and make jokes, because they were so freaked out and that was the only way to break the ice.
Apart from the film dealing with homosexuality and AIDS, the film also deals with the topic of euthanasia. Olivia says of this: "I have a large group of friends, and some of them are gay. I talked to them about it and they told me quite a few of their friends have done a similar thing, rather than drag it out and suffer, and I think that's humane. I don't think people should think that this film is just about AIDS and gayness. Its about loving, no matter what color or sexuality you prefer. Love is love no matter what situation you're in. It's about the loss of a friend and its about compassion and forgiveness and letting go."
Olivia, gives a good performance in her substantial role as Linda Bingham. She adds some depth to her character. Watch out for the puppy falling-over scene - this wasn't in the script and Olivia's hilarity is entirely natural! There's also an updated send-up of the Frenchy bedroom smoking scene from Grease - very clever!
The filmed premiered at the Sundance Film Festival January 1995 and then played in US theaters for a couple of weeks. It was also shown at the Berlin Film Festival in February 1995. It had its UK premiere at the lesbian and gay film festival in London on the 24 March 1995 (it never made it to UK cinemas but got a popular video release). It was released on DVD in 2003.
Review by Helen, taken from Only Olivia newsletterpage top