The Party

A gathering of close friends is called for to celebrate the hostess Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) promotion to Shadow Minister of Health. As she preps the food, she replies to texts from a secret lover. In the living room, the very placid Bill (Timothy Spall) switches changes between jazz records whilst aimlessly looking outside his living room window, somewhat unclear if he’s actually all there. As the guests arrive, they all have seemed to brought with them some emotional baggage waiting to spill over. April (Patricia Clarkson) and Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) arrive first as the couple who April is very clear to announce of her breaking up with life coach Gottfried whom she can’t stand his over trying positivity and cliches. Feminist scholar Martha (Cherry Jones) and her much younger partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer) have some very good news themselves waiting to be shared. Tom (Cillian Murphy) seems like the outsider of the group, his late wife the main connection to the party of gatherers, but his intentions seem more sinister as he is high on cocaine and brought a handgun to dish out some revenge amongst one of the party. Before the party can really get going, Bill has an announcement that turns everything upside down, which begins a whirlwind of unpleasant truths spilling out amongst them all.

I have a lot of respect for those who can make a feature film from a very self-contained environment, but The Party is not quite feature length. It’s just over the hour mark and the unnecessary long opening credits suggest the film is trying to cheat itself in being a lengthier affair. Shot in black and white, it does really compliment the tone in this black comedy of the self-destructive actions of this bourgeoise gathering. But that really is as far as it goes as this film being actual cinema. This is a theatre play likely to be celebrated by those audiences. The conflict created to drive the narrative and humour is far too easily orchestrated. One minute we have a couple rejoicing pregnancy then all of a sudden they are finding any reason to argue as though to fit in. Logically it doesn’t really add up either. For the purposes of not revealing too much, when one character reacts violently against another for being wronged, it fails to make sense as the person is committing the same crime against them. When the twist in the tale is finally revealed at the end, it all adds up to one big sketch trying to arrive to one joke and barely a hilarious one at that. It’s a mixed bag of performances, Kristin Scott Thomas and Timothy Spall are solid, but Ganz and Murphy feel a tad over the top. Patricia Clarkson is more a less a cynical parrot in the room who is there to just bark sarcastic remarks at any given opportunity. Although funny in moments, there are next to no character turns for her. To be brutal, it feels a half baked affair and it’s disappointing to see the BFI have helped in the making of this, why it is necessary to help a film with big established names in a low key setting that would not command a large budget, when they could be supporting new filmmakers. It’s a one hour TV special, not a feature film to feel the need to go out of ones way to see.

★★

Harry Trent