The Donor Party
by Tori Hanes
Ah, the days of early aughts romcoms. Do you remember turning off your brain for 90 full minutes while the cinematic equivalent of white noise lulled you? Could it be considered brave for a film released in 2023 to pivot on its heels back to this genre of gooey nothingness? If so, The Donor Party by director Thom Harp deserves a Purple Heart.
Following wanna-be mother Jaclyn (Malin Ackerman) through her misguided – and frankly, morally challenged – quest for self-insemination, The Donor Party does little to endear itself to audiences through its clunky plot. The hook- one night, three unknowing sperm “donors”, and a woman watching her biological clock click closer to midnight- is one better left in the aughts.
The story bobs and weaves awkwardly, causing fatigue for both the audience and, seemingly, the performers. The cutesy setup of quirkily tricking men into fatherhood immediately stings and continues to rest like a hot iron branding the forearm.
The film finds its footing through the natural chemistry and charisma that the performers practically beg you to acknowledge. Having pulled a crew of stealthily loaded comedic talent, Harp allows for long moments of play from his actors. In these beats of palpable improv, the humor, depth, and charm of The Donor Party shimmers.
Rob Corddry, Bria Henderson, Erinn Hayes, and Dan Adhoot bring a warmth and passion so rarely seen in mid-to-low-budget romcoms that it’s occasionally staggering. A particular scene with Erinn Hayes (who plays up-tight, accidentally drugged host Molly) lamenting to Jacyln about her march toward stagnation while high off her rocker in a pool strikes as one of the more sincere moments in the recent memory of movies.
It’s fun. The story gets caught up in itself at the expense of any sort of meaning, the plot feels icky at times, but Harp couldn’t have picked a more affable crew. If you’ve long missed the washing glow of aughts-based goof, The Donor Party is for you.