Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer
It’s a play, Sally Potter’s latest film. Or at least it’s written and shot like one. The writer/director behind such diverse films as Ginger & Rose or The Man Who Cried, delivers a wildly eccentric and capable ensemble cast. This black and white staged cinema takes place in one single location, in real time during a dinner party celebration. It’s similar to Jess Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, which was similarly confined, b/w, and fast paced. The Party boils down to a bunch of adults acting hysterically over marriages, sickness, political affiliation and children. It’s enough to drive the audience into a state, but short enough that you don’t feel you have wasted too much of your time.
Janet (Thomas) has just been elected as Britain’s first female Minister of Health following the Brexit fallout. Her wildly diverse group of friends are coming over for an intimate dinner party. Best friend April (Clarkson) arrives first, with her health guru boyfriend Gottfried (Ganz), filling the silence with conversation. Janet’s supportive husband Bill (Spall) sits catatonic in the living room, until his later announcement that he is dying sets everyone into a frenzy. Jinny (Mortimer) and Martha (Jones) arrive with news they are having triplets, while friend Tom (Murphy) appears to be on edge with information he can no longer contain.
As it’s presented here, The Party isn’t cinematic, engaging or insightful.
It’s not Woody Allen’s Carnage, as the subject matter and focal points fly around the room like a bird trying to escape. There are moments of pure madness which clues the viewer into the idea these are not real people or real characters but hyperbole. “Your clichés are unbearable,” April shouts at one point during the film. It’s not only the clichés, but the over acting and acting out that’s quite unbearable. There are some quotable zingers, again mostly from Clarkson, but I found the film as a whole, a glutenous exercise.
Certainly not for mainstream audiences, under a different setting, a stage and a live audience, this might work phenomenally. As it’s presented here, The Party isn’t cinematic, engaging or insightful. It’s 70 minutes of voyeuristic social interaction that might remind introverts of why we stay away from get togethers. It’s another disappointing film involving Thomas, who played a marginalized Clementine Churchill in Darkest Hour. These actors deserve better, a real film, playing real characters, The Party is anything but.
The Party is another play disguised as a film with an ensemble cast that deserves better.