Most parties start off with a bang and end with a whimper but Sally Potter’s The Party goes backwards. The director’s latest film features an all-star cast and tells the story of Janet (Kristen Scott Thomas) who has recently earned the position of Health Minister in British parliament. To celebrate, she has invited her oldest friends, all renowned in their own fields, for a dinner party. Things take a nasty turn when her husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), brings some world-rocking revelations to light.
Sally Potter has assembled one of the finest ensembles of versatile actors but one can’t help but feel that their talents have been squandered on a vaudevillian comedy of errors. Patricia Clarkson becomes quickly ingratiating as the ball-busting cynic. Cherry Jones plays the exact same character she played in Transparent. The other characters show some depth and development once they have each made their big reveal. Cillian Murphy’s coked-out banker is painfully clichéd until he tells his secret. Scott Thomas carries the film well, helping to provide a vital bridge between comedy and drama.
The introduction and establishment of characters unfurls in typical sitcom fashion and it is only when Bill comes to life that the action and pacing is kicked into gear. The movie revels in its own revelations, sacrificing crucial character development for quick twists and turns that offer less and less insight as they are piled on. The Party excels in its humour, offering fast-paced, well-written dialogue that the cast bring to life with vivacity. Bruno Ganz is magnificent as the pseudo-Guru who acts as a beacon of positive energy in this fish tank of cynicism.
Potter takes great risks with the black and white aesthetic and extreme camera angles that succeed in keeping the story fresh and interesting. She manages to create great depth and movement in such a constrained space, elevating the style above a basic multi-camera comedy.
The Party is a delightful, concise romp that is fuelled by the irresistible chemistry of this fantastic ensemble. The dialogue simmers with wit and intellect but more often than not, Potter is reluctant to fully delve into the realms of intelligent drama.
The Party does not have a UK release date yet.
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