Film review: ‘THE PARTY’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

British film, The Party from director Sally Potter has nothing to do with the 1968 Peter Sellers movie. Instead this oddly brief, extremely erudite, stagey and occasionally pretentious film recalls the sort of politically-infused dinner party films we often see coming out of European arthouse cinema.

The Party features a superb cast – including Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson and Cillian Murphy – most of whom are given the opportunity to parade their formidable thespian skills before the camera. Kristin Scott-Thomas plays Janet, a politician who has just been promoted to Shadow Health Minister. To celebrate, she throws a party and assembles her and her ailing history professor husband Bill’s (Timothy Spall) coterie of intellectual and neurotic friends who include self-satisfied American (Patricia Clarkson), her ludicrous life coach husband (Bruno Ganz), chef Jinny (Emily Mortimer), her Women’s Studies Professor partner Martha (Cherry Jones) and angry coke-fuelled banker Cillian Murphy for what they believe will be one of Janet’s typical soirees.

A series of shocking admissions, however, see the night descend into chaos and even violence and reveal the seething snakes’ nest of deceptions underlying their smug upper middle-class lives.

Although written directly for the screen, this film looks like a theatre adaptation as it transforms into a series of frenzied conversations and confrontations with the various couples in separate rooms trying to deal with the fallout of the night’s revelations. Filmed in black and white, it occasionally recalls another slightly crazed and embittered relationship drama Edward Albee’s Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf.

The spiky, acerbic, academically-infused dialogue is often sparkling and occasionally witty but not as hilarious as some shrieking audience members seemed to think. Still, the brilliant Bruno Ganz’ new-age crackpot aphorisms are a riot.

While there’s occasional scenery chewing, especially from Cillian Murphy (although to be fair, his character is coke-fuelled nutter) the acting is generally impeccable.

With its physically limited setting and abrupt ending it feels like there’s something missing from The Party but there’s still plenty to admire here.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Drama.

Classification: MA 15+.

Director(s): Sally Potter.

Release date: 12th Apr 2018.

Running time: 71 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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