A small, sharp, black-and-white farce written and directed by Sally Potter.
Any party thrown by Kristin Scott Thomas is bound to be worth attending – and with guests including Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson and Cillian Murphy, this is one star-studded screen soirée.
All of the performances are magnificent in this small, sharp, black-and-white farce written and directed by Sally Potter (‘Orlando’, ‘Ginger & Rosa’). Scott Thomas is a politician, Janet, who’s celebrating her appointment as Shadow Minister for Health with a few close friends and her academic husband Bill (Spall). As she busies around the kitchen, she’s getting both congratulatory calls from colleagues and flirty texts from an unknown admirer. She fails to notice that Bill is practically in a trance, knocking back the booze in the living room. Something is clearly wrong.
Each knock on the door brings fresh characters, comical complications and layers of intrigue. Most intriguing is Tom (Murphy), a coke-snorting City boy with several tricks up his sleeve, while the most amusing is undoubtedly April (Clarkson). A dry, acerbic wit barely concealing hostility towards several of her friends, she reserves her most withering put-downs for her older partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a contrastingly mellow New Ager who takes whatever is thrown at him. Milder domestic disputes are stirring with pregnant Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and partner Martha (Cherry Jones).
‘The Party’ uses its single setting to claustrophobic, dramatic advantage. The dialogue is bitterly funny, even while dealing with the darkest of subject matters, touching on politics, family, fidelity and sexuality while maintaining a breezy comic tone. And amid the middle-class intellectual squabbling there’s a palpable sense of tension and danger. It’s openly theatrical, but if it feels like a film of a play, it’s a play you really should see.
Cast and crew
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I was expecting more from this film being as it it had a lot of great actors in it. Yes it is meant to be a satirical comedy, but I found it a little on the 'crazy' side and lame.
The work of director Sally Potter can sometimes be a difficult challenge. Her stuff often requires effort to watch but this cinemagoer has enjoyed her films, going back to “Orlando” and “The Tango Lesson” back in the ‘90s.
Her latest movie, shot in sharp monochrome, centres on a London house (Islington or Wimbledon?) where politician Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) throws a party to celebrate her elevation to Shadow Minister of Health.
Hubby Bill (Timothy Spall) spends the first half hour or so of this very short film (just over an hour) in one of the easiest acting roles of his career, eye-rollingly, speechlessly plastered, slumped in a chair.
Meanwhile Janet’s friends, a mixed bag of chatterers, turn up for what gradually becomes a farcical cycle of betrayals, rages, hysterical rants, fisticuffs and even a gun threat (the weapon brought in by Tom (Cillian Murphy), a coke-snorting banker).
As the list of infidelities grows and life-long friendships evaporate, there are several very funny dark jokes to leaven the gloom. The end of the film is somewhat ambivalent and I won’t disclose it here.
Despite a top-notch cast, Potter’s movie is quite lightweight to be distributed as a feature film. It would have been a great TV drama special but, to be honest, little more than that.