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+
@pegsatthemovies

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

Review: “STILL ALICE” & “MR. TURNER”

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still alice mr turner
Putting up two films here in one review as it’s been a month or so since I’ve seen the films and as they are both average films wrapped in fantastic lead performances, I can sum them up rather quickly.

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Starting with Still Alice, Julianne Moore plays “Alice Howland” a happily married linguistics professor who suddenly notices while on a run through the UCLA campus while on a trip to LA where during a lecture she was giving, that she is completely lost, can’t remember why she is there and that is just the beginning of when she realizes she is forgetting words, details, appointments etc. As she goes to get a checkup, as she is still young at age 50, for what could be happening to her, she gets the devastating diagnosis of early onset Alsheimers disease. It’s here that Moore’s performance goes into high gear. Along with her husband, “John” (Alec Baldwin) a neurologist, and three grown children, “Anna” (Kate Bosworth), the married one of the bunch who is trying through invitro, to have a child, “Tom” (Hunter Parrish) who is following in his parents footsteps and in medical school, and lastly the black sheep so to speak of the bunch “Lydia” (Kristen Stewart) who is trying to be an actress (note: Kristen Stewart is trying to be an actress here-if only this was real life *insert sarcasm*) still alice 2

Moore brings the fear, stress and the struggle of a what a woman whose mind is going away too fast especially considering who she was..as her neuroligists says to her at one point that someone who was so actively intelligent as she was, the mind can go even faster. To quote her own words: “I’m learning the art of losing everyday. We become ridiculous, incapable, comic – but this is not us, this is the disease”. The film is moving in the fact that it’s impossible to stay indifferent in face of Alzheimer’s, what it lacks though is that you don’t really develop any particular feelings for Alice or her family, and feel a bit detached from any of them. They don’t explore tears factor here, which is fine because we do understand where it is heading well enough, and though competently done, the film lacks the huge emotional impact to really involve us.

Grade: C – for the film itself; B+ for Moore’s performance

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Moving on here to “Mr. Turner” starring Timothy Spall as “J.M.W.Turner” the eccentric, but brilliant painter of the Romanticist era of the 18th/19th Century known mostly for his landscapes and being the “painter of light”
The film starts and focuses on the last quarter century of Turner’s life where we see him being extremely close to his father, “William Turner” (Paul Jesson) and a very odd relationship with their housemaid “Hannah Danby” (Dorothy Atkinson) who has a skin condition that goes from bad to just plain awful during the film. We also take note that Turner really doesn’t have many friends, he suffers from bouts of major depression (something his mother was institutionalized for) and while it doesn’t really show if he was actually married or not, a few times during the film we see “Sarah Danby” (Ruth Sheen) & her two daughters “Evelina” (Sandy Foster) & “Georgiana” (Amy Dawson) visit, make demands of him and make as though they are his daughters though he treats them all rather deplorably.

As we go through the years we see Turner go into the relationship with “Sophia Bush” (Marion Bailey), after her second husband passes, though she seemly doesn’t know who he is for the first few years that he comes to stay at her bed & breakfast spot every summer as ‘Mr. Booth’ and this is how he lives for the next 15+ years until his death. mr turner 2

As I have liked some of Mike Leigh’s films over the years, visually I can say this movie is truly beautiful as we are treated to viewing creation of some of Turner’s best work. Though the film moves slowly, the performance by Spall is quite something to speak of especially after learning that he spent two years being taught how to paint like Turner so as it make the artistry even more realistic. Though at times all the grunting and groaning as his everyday responses to things reminded me of a Women’s tennis match as I’m not someone who can stomach those noises well and let’s just say, I had to set my popcorn down, it still is quite a feat in itself to have done all this.

Grade: C once again for the film..a B for the performance of Timothy Spall.

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(See grading scale)