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United Kingdom 2017
Directed by
Sally Potter
71 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

Party, The

Synopsis: Middle-aged Londoner Janet (Kirsten Scott Thomas) hosts a dinner party for old friends to celebrate her promotion to the parliamentary Shadow Cabinet but when her guests arrive it turns out that there is more to regret to celebrate.  

You’d be forgiven for thinking that at 71 minutes admired English auteur Sally Potter (Yes, 2004, Orlando,1992) is being unduly parsimonious but believe me, The Party is at least 61 minutes too long.

Presumably when she was writing her latest film Ms. Potter was imagining something mordantly witty in the manner of Carnage (2011) or August: Osage County (2014): an ensemble of characters venting their pent-up spleen on each other for our amusement. Instead, she has given us a wordily contrived grab-bag of observations and opinions on the National Health system, the state of Britain, cultural relativism, New Age healing, post-post-feminism, same-sex parenting and so on, laboured utterances which the fine cast can do nothing ith to make even remotely engaging.

I say “fine cast” but that is based on their work in other films, not this one. Timothy Spall who appears to have dieted himself into early decrepitude is singularly awful. Playing his character, Bill, like someone with Alzheimer’s who is recovering from a stroke it takes quite a while to work out that he is supposed to be depressed. His acting is limited to looking woe-begone, his bottom lip sagging as he swivels his eyes under their bushy brows. As a husband for Kristin Scott Thomas's bustling career woman he is wildly improbable, let alone for the part he is to play later in the film but about which I can’t tell you so as not to spoil one of the few appealing things about it, its ending..  

Bill, however, is only the most egregiously poorly-drawn of the typological characters who dutifully trot out Ms Potter’s painfully wrought dialogue. Thus Patricia Clarkson as Janet’s bestie, April, tosses off witheringly sarcastic assessments of the other guests, including her partner (Bruno Ganz), that are supposed to be ripely comedic bon mots but are actually no more than nasty cracks.  As this strained condition afflicts the entire film there really is no need to speak of Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones' lesbian couple or Cillian Murphy’s coke-snorting “wanker-banker”, whose reason for being at the party is never clear.  

As the evening unfolds. Ms Potter shuffles the characters from room to room often using unusual camera POVs in order to create some visual variety. Consistent with the rest of the film it's another obvious contrivance even if the black-and-white cinematography is pleasing to the eye.

The film is nicely book-ended with a clever narrative twist but what comes between is nearly unbearable.




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