Writer-director Sally Potter (Orlando, Ginger & Rosa) didn’t need more than one hour and eleven minutes to delight us in her stimulating comedy-drama The Party, which hilariously depicts a celebratory gathering of bourgeois English friends, who unexpectedly become alienated after a few painful truths have been disclosed. The film, superbly photographed in a lovely black-and-white by Russian Aleksei Rodionov, boasts a precious ensemble cast that includes Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Cillian Murphy, and Emily Mortimer.
The idea is certainly not new, but Ms. Potter added the required amount of facetious lines and created considerable scathing situations to make it completely self-reliant when compared to other movies with similar topics such as The Celebration, Krisha, and August, Osage County.
“…the film’s heart is Clarkson with her mordant observations and sarcastic postures.”
The story begins with Janet (Thomas), a highly competent politician in the opposition party who made it to the top. She’s holding a small party at her house to celebrate the deserved promotion that made her a UK’s shadow minister. Her husband Bill (Spall), who infallibly supported her in the whole process toward a successful career, is seated in the living room, drinking wine and listening to his old blues records. Drunk and desolated, his eyes are fixed in the vague, and his depressed semblance makes us guess that he’s probably more worried than happy.
The invited friends keep arriving one after another. Each one of them brings something peculiar and interesting scene, hence, there are no tedious or frivolous characters at this celebration. First arrives a fabulous couple composed of April (Clarkson), a former provocative idealist turned into cynical realist, and her German husband, Gottfried (Ganz), a self-proclaimed spiritual healer who deeply annoys his wife, even when meditating with his mouth shut. She plans to separate from him soon.
The next is Tom (Murphy), a handsome and wealthy banker who seemed very agitated. He arrived without his wife Maryanne, Janet’s colleague and best friend, but brought cocaine, a pistol, and a glint of madness in his eyes. According to his behavior, one can tell he has a ruinous plan in mind for that night. In turn, the lesbian couple that follows, Martha (Jones) and Jinny (Mortimer), show up with a radiant smile on their faces, announcing that the latter is going to give birth to three children. This is “the miracle of conception”, derides Gottfried. However, they won’t leave the house in the same mood.
“The idea is certainly not new, but Ms. Potter added the required amount of facetious lines and created considerable scathing situations to make it completely self-reliant…”
The troubles start when Bill reveals he got a terminal diagnosis from the doctor. As an atheist and a materialist, he doesn’t know how to cope with the situation, asking for Gottfried’s help. The discussion goes to many places, from the inefficiency of the Western medicine to past lives, and from karma to faith.
Janet, who also hides her own secrets, got hysterical with the news, becoming furious the next minute when another bomb falls down: Bill is being unfaithful to her, and his lover is Marianne.
As an exercise in mood, the efficiently edited The Party serves as a showcase for the general powerful acting, yet, the film’s heart is Clarkson with her mordant observations and sarcastic postures. Effortlessly gliding between pungent drama and theatrical satire, this is an inspired, fast-paced chamber piece that ends gloriously staggering.
The Party (2017) Written and Directed by Sally Potter. Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Cillian Murphy, and Emily Mortimer.
8 out of 10