There’s just something so very delicious about a social gathering gone horribly, horribly wrong…
From the unexpectedly hilarious mind of writer/director Sally Potter, The Party is about as deadpan as they come making for brief yet intensely uncomfortable and hilarious ride down the rabbit hole of how horrible but also so compassionate we can all truly be to one another as human beings.
It’s a simple scenario as we meet Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas, who) is hosting an intimate gathering of friends in her London home to celebrate her political ascension, while her husband, Bill(Timothy Spall),seems preoccupied. Janet’s acerbic best friend, April (Patricia Clarkson) arrives and others follow, some with their own dramatic news to share, but an announcement by Bill provokes a series of revelations that gradually unravel the sophisticated soiree, and a night that began with champagne may end with gunplay.
Ultimately, The Party is a master stroke in cinematic efficiency as writer/director Sally Potter who isn’t exactly known for her comedic styling’s, gives us something that manages to be both mature and incredibly petty as it dissects the very core elements of human nature crashing into each other like they were a bull in a china shop.
Shot in a simplistic yet totally effective black and white sheen, Potter stages The Party with such efficiency that it feels like we are watching a brilliant little stage play in some tiny little theatre that no one has ever heard of. There’s admittedly not a lot of subtlety here, but there isn’t supposed to be as it is the perfect mix of people who either have no desire to engage with or simply don’t care about the trappings of polite society…these are all friends and loved ones and as many of us know all too well, those are the people that it is the absolute easiest to be the harshest too because when we don’t like ourselves very much…we let them know it.
That point really comes into play as Potter unfolds the narrative taking us through the spectrum of human emotion that you’d really expect in a situation like this giving us humanity at its most toxic and truly selfish as the existence of the bulk of these characters gets torn asunder. It feels fitting that Potter who really does explore the dynamic of human relationships in her stories so well would take this tact because while it may be harsh and uncomfortable to see unfurl in front of us, it’s also the most honest and ironically hilarious way to get to the root of the characters that she puts on screen because they are all truly the architects of their own emotional undoing in this story.
The consistently radiant Kirsten Scott-Thomas takes the lead in this ensemble exceptionally well, as a woman navigating the halls of power for the very first time. She rarely gets the opportunity to do it but she has some exceptional comedic chops and was the perfect choice for the center of attention in this comedy of manners that essentially get thrown out the window. Patricia Clarkson is perfect as her hard cynical best friend while Bruno Ganz is unexpectedly inspired as a humanistic life coach and spiritual guru of sorts. Both Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer have somewhat of a side story that while compelling kind of blends into the background of why these people are all in the same place and Cillian Murphy is delightfully unhinged as a man looking for a confrontation on his terms at this party gone afoul and because each of the actor’s in this ensemble are ridiculously talented they all succeed at the rare feat of being engaging and compelling characters who are also still completely horrible to one another.
There truly is a reason why The Party is only 71 minutes long because it cuts to the core of the selfish nature of the individual so quickly and correctly that it would just feel like bleak self abuse to sit through any more of it since even the best of us can only laugh at ourselves so much.
- Release Date: 3/2/2018