The Party (2017)

October 9th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Sally Potter. Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones | UK | DRAMA | 71′

After the lush languor of Orlando comes the sleek satire of THE PARTY: Sally Potter has never done laughs before, but here there are some mean ones but nothing unsurprising. This middle class chamber piece is very much a British affair with a British cast – strangely, the most appealing characters are German and American. Shot in bare black-and-white it certainly strips bare the themes involved: Politics, Love, Sex and Money: but what else is there? Intellect, of course, and that is supplied in spades by Timothy Spall’s lounge hang-dog lizard Bill who is hosting a soirée for six close friends for his wife Kristin Scott Thomas’ Janet, who has just been appointed Shadow Health Minister. This is one of those ghastly evenings where everyone has ‘an announcement’ and no one appears to be particularly in a good mood, apart from Bruno Ganz’ soothing alternative therapist Gottfried who talks in cliches along with the other guests, each saying exactly what you would expect them to, representing a different aspect of the social spectrum. Ganz’ news is announced as their ‘last supper’ by his warm and waspish wife April (a brilliant Patricia Clarkson) as she slumps gracefully into a squashy settee. Very much queen of the back-handed compliment she is also the lynchpin who holds the party together, and by the end announces: “our marriage is not looking so bad, compared to this lot”. Everyone is focused on their own issues in that fashionably distraught way well-known to city-dwellers. The only cheesy smile comes from Janet, not least because of her news, but also because of a secret lover who keeps phoning and texting while she pops the vol-au-vents into the oven like some modern day Fanny Craddock. Tom (Cillian Murphy), is a melodramatic financial type who snorts coke in the loo and carries a gun (yeh Sally all city-types snort coke, and carry guns – if only you knew!). The whole affair is book-ended by Janet pointing a gun from her open front door in a ruse that feels bit too formulaic and trite, in the scheme of things. The problem with THE PARTY is an insistence on toeing the party line: everything is so predictable, and unoriginal. There’s even a lesbian couple played by Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones, who are expecting triplets, and whose dominant versus submissive shtick is cringeworthy in the extreme. The finale showdown involves interweaving infidelities. THE PARTY is an amuse-bouche, and it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. And by the time you’re home you’ll be casting around for that bluray of Orlando. MT

RELEASES ON 13 OCTOBER 2017 NATIONWIDE | Berlinale review

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