BFI London Film Festival: The Party

The Party
The Party
Directed by Sally Potter
Starring Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas and Timothy Spall
Screening at LFF October 10th, 11th, 2017
In UK Cinemas October 13th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

With a running time of 71 minutes, I expected The Party to be short and sweet, not slow and acerbic. The theatrically staged film, shot in black and white, played out in real time, is not the sort of party you’d like to attend, but as an observer, it certainly is a riot.

Janet (Scott Thomas) is hosting a dinner party for a select group of ‘friends’ to celebrate her newfound governmental success as shadow health minister. Her husband Bill (Spall) appears withdrawn in the lounge as he plays his records. As the guests arrive one by one, the farcical action ensues.

A conversational piece of pseudo-intellect, The Party comes across as pretentious, assuredly for an audience fond of dialogue-driven material. The wittiness is not in abundance, but wonderful performances and some cutting comic dialogue from April (Clarkson) keep the film afloat. The unique characters and their relationships with each other are caricaturized to enhance the farce, but as The Party feels more like a one-act play than a film, the characterizations are fitting.

The attendees of the party are clearly elitists and experts in their fields. Government minister, master chef, literary feminist, professor, life coach, banker; all of the upper middle class cliches are in place. There are revelations and rows, accumulating slowly into high drama.

While Clarkson has the funniest lines of the film, it is Cillian Murphy as Tom who steals many scenes with his volatile energy and suspicious motives. All becomes clear as the film comes full circle, framing itself with the same scene at both its start and finish, much to the delight of the audience.

Old-fashioned British buffoonery is at the forefront of The Party. There is nothing profound or meaningful, merely a good amount of entertaining theatrics in just over an hour!



 

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