Film Review: The Party

Sally Potter worked in the theatre before she became a filmmaker, and it certainly shows with this irksomely stagey one-room talk (talk-talk-talk-talk-talk…) piece which thankfully proves to be barely feature length at a mere 71 minutes.

Potter’s previous pics (especially the over-the-top Orlando, the self-congratulatory The Tango Lesson and the lush but dire The Man Who Cried) at least offered a sense of ludicrous grandiosity, but this black and white effort has only its admittedly fine cast on hand to save it. And they’re all stuck with characters so pretentious, cruel, selfish, druggy and/or up-themselves that it’s hard to give a damn about any of them.

Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas at her most barbed) is a politician who’s just been promoted to the position of Shadow Minister For Health, and she’s having a little get-together to celebrate as her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) sits brooding in the corner (and as Spall is wearing his sunken and gloomy expression, we know that something awful is brewing). The party guest list is complete with such self-impressed sorts as: tense chum April (Patricia Clarkson); her estranged partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a life coach who enjoys telling everyone what to do; a loud professor of Women’s Studies named Martha (Cherry Jones); her uneasy partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer); and jumpy cocaine-sniffer Tom (Cillian Murphy), whose wife Marianne will join later.

This over-intellectualised, multinational sextet then proceeds to argue, snipe, agonise, rant and rave for about an hour or so, as Bill sits quietly for most of the drama, understandably appalled at it all. He also mentions his atheism, which is telling as Potter herself famously denies the existence of God as well and makes you wonder if Bill is the character with whom she most identifies. Perhaps she should have played the part herself (she did star in her own The Tango Lesson, after all) and saved Timothy the embarrassment?

Adding up to not very much and looking very pale in an age of two-hour-plus, actually cinematic blockbusters, this also throws in a series of easily guessable twists that prove more annoying than gleefully blackly comic. But Potter’s fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rated MA. The Party is in cinemas now.

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