In a private home, various individuals think they they’re coming together for a party. A series of revelations results in a huge crisis that throws their belief systems, and their values, into total disarray.
ActorsStarring: Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy
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Sally Potter has a history of making arty films dating back to her best-known work Orlando (1992), though she made her first super 8 film at the age of just fourteen. The Party is a low budget, black and white affair shot in a fortnight and restricted to just seven characters. Janet (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) is a career politician who has just been promoted to the shadow cabinet. She throws a dinner party to celebrate along with her husband Bill (Timothy Spall), inviting an assortment of old friends. April (Patricia Clarkson) is a forceful and sharp-tongued American with a “life coach and healer” boyfriend Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). Martha (Cherry Jones) is a lesbian university professor with a much younger wife Jinny (Emily Mortimer) who have some news of their own to bring to the party. Completing the party is brash young cocaine-snorting financier Tom (Cillian Murphy) and his beautiful wife, who is arriving later.
The dinner party from hell is a peculiarly British form of dread, depicted in diverse forms from Mike Leigh’s 1977 classic work Abigail’s Party up to the recent first season climax of hit TV show Doctor Foster. The party does not go according to plan, with Bill having his own dramatic announcement to make, tensions between the other two couples present and the evidently stressed-out Tom having an entirely different agenda for the evening. The film works because Sally Potter’s script has a keen eye for middle class hypocrisy and pretentiousness, the sharp lines delivered by a classy cast. One entertaining note is the series of wildly inappropriate musical pieces in the form of albums played on the old record player in the lounge as the evening progresses through its ever more crisis-riven course.
A film with such limited scope could easily fall flat on its face but it is carried along by energetic direction and the clever cinematography of Alexei Rodionov, who conjures inventive angles from the very confined space that he has to work with. Champagne socialism and politically correctness are not the toughest satirical targets, but the script has enough witty lines to keep the audience engaged, and at just 70 minutes it does not outstay its welcome.