This opening scene and the closing scene of Director Sally Potter’s new black & white shot film “The Party” are exactly the same. What lies between those two shots is a thankfull scant 71 minutes of a rather abysmal ‘dark comedy’ that didn’t really bring me any laughs, though in all fairness – I did hear a scant few on the other side of the screening.
While the film was not outright dreadful, it does go to show that one should never be taken in by a slickly made trailer or a stellar cast-list. Kristen Scott Thomas as Janet and a really craggy old looking version of Timothy Spall as her husband Bill, lead as the couple having ‘The Party’ to celebrate Janet’s promotion in the political arena. Guests: April (Patricia Clarkson), her seemingly always annoying partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and the much younger, newly preggers with triplets Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and lastly we have Tom (Cillian Murphy) a wound up, coked out financier of some sorts.
Let’s start off with the script to which the statement huh? might apply for me. As truly no attempt was seemingly made to write anything approaching natural conversation. Dialogue was jagged and disjointed, lacking any genuine motivational flow. Sorry, but real people just DON’T interact like this and yes, I get that’s it’s a movie and not everything needs to be exact but whoa! this was just ridiculous in a manner of speaking. And as for it being a comedy, I was definitely fooled into thinking this might be, yet I think I laughed three times total and two of them were little more than polite ha!’s to be sure. Now again, I did hear some others laughing more than this – but no one near me.
Pacing: what pacing? I’m just going to roll with – there really wasn’t any. At one point I caught myself yawning and for a film that last only 71 minutes – well it says a lot.
Lastly the characterisation: seven characters flapping about on screen and not a single one of them believable. Just 2-dimensional assemblages of what I can only call over-the-top histrionics. Consequently I never felt any sympathy (or even antipathy) toward any of them, so couldn’t engage with any of the supposed crises they were experiencing.
Performances: almost uniformly muggy and overdone – an effect made even worse by the habit of shooting an awful lot of exchanges in tight close-up.
Oh yes… I said “short”, didn’t I? Well let’s say this, when the end credits appeared there was an audible “Uh?” of surprise from the audience and a sigh of relief from myself. The film had lasted barely over an hour and on second thought, this was probably a blessing: not sure I could have withstood another 30 minutes of such nonsense.
Wrapping it all up: There isn’t ONE person in this cast of seven whom the audience can really sympathise or relate with. The seven characters call themselves ‘friends’ but treat each other with hostility, dishonesty etc. Too me it felt more like an unreal vacuum of lovelessness than a real group of people. Even the super-talented Cillian Murphy comes across as one-sided and overacting. The ‘twist’ at the end is also not very interesting and a bit of a cliché. I’ve seen much better work from Sally Potter!
Review Screening: Thursday, February 15, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Film Independent at LACMA
THE PARTY is now playing in select theaters worldwide