REVIEW: “THE PARTY” (2018) Roadside Attractions

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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!

Grade: D+
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Review Screening: Thursday, February 15, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Film Independent at LACMA
THE PARTY is now playing in select theaters worldwide

REVIEW: “IN THE HEART OF THE SEA” (2015) Warner Bros.

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“In the Heart of the Sea” is an Action/Adventure/Biopic based on the real disaster that inspired Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’. The film follows the voyage of the ‘Essex’, a whaling ship that was bought down in 1820 by a Sperm Whale in the South Pacific, and is a true tale of adventure, drama, and survival.

Obviously the main reason to go and see this movie was to see this massive whale go toe to toe with the ‘Essex’ and its crew although actual confrontations with the whale in this film were few and far between, but when they happen, do they make an impact. This whale is inexplicably huge, and yes, he was grand as the story tells. in the heart 2It truly was such a spectacle seeing this huge beautiful whale on screen. The way they emphasize his size through setting him side by side with the boats gives his presence much more weight. Confrontations with the whale were intense and pretty good edge-of-seat stuff. Yes it’s CGI effects, but the whale was done beautifully and it’s incredibly detailed, making this whale look quite realistic and believable.
in the heart 8
The film’s biggest problem was the pacing. Throughout the film there are quite a few uninteresting moments that fail to hold your interest. There are some especially slow moments at the beginning where they are introducing some of the main characters to us including our lead, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) & his wife Peggy Chase (Charlotte Riley). As the introductions continue, we meet Mrs. Nickerson (Michelle Fairley) wife to Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), who will be the one recounting the events of the film to Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) as he lived through and endured them as his younger self played very well by Tom Holland. Scenes like this are nothing new and have been done in countless films before this, but here they are a big part of the actual story of the film.
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Acting wise, the film was pretty good. I had heard some possible Oscar buzz about Hemsworth as he was the obvious standout, and he was able to show off a different side of his acting talents here, but still even with his dramatic transformation, it isn’t going to garner any type of Best Actor nom. The supporting cast was mostly pretty strong, Benjamin Walker as George Pollard and Cillian Murphy as Matthew Joy really stand out, again with Tom Holland as the Younger Thomas Nickerson. The crew of the Essex made up of Henry Coffin (Frank Dillane), Caleb Chappel (Paul Anderson), Benjamin Lawrence (Joseph Mawle), William Bond (Gary Beadle), Ramsdell (Sam Keeley) to name a few, were all good strong performances.
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Ron Howard does a pretty good job directing the film and most of the time he nails the tone of the film. The dramatic action scenes were filmed and directed in a very frantic and chaotic manner that upped the stakes during those intense moments. Especially in the latter portions of the film he does represent the sad tones and emotion pretty well and handles some very confronting scenes in a way that isn’t too disturbing but also isn’t sugar-coated.

The latter half of the film, although not free of some slower moments, does pick up significantly from the first half when it introduces some survival elements. As the film doesn’t end on a high note as it could have been a short and sweet ending but it is dragged out a little longer but with that, it makes a strong point.

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In the end, this is an action/adventure that has its intense, dramatic moments, but is not without some slower moments that if excluded could have kept the film to a shorter run time and maybe would have made it more impactful. If you are fascinated of the story of Moby-Dick as I was as a child, then you will definitely get more enjoyment out of the film.

Grade: C
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Review Screening: Monday, December 7, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 11, 2015