I have to admit, I saw this film last year as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival and had it as my number 1 favourite film of 2017 - until I was shot down and told that because it hadn’t been released in Australia, it was an invalid choice. But its 2018 now, so I’m allowed to be as hyperbolic as possible for the latest film by esteemed director Sally Potter.
Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas, 'The English Patient', 'Darkest Hour') is having a small party to celebrate her promotion to Shadow Minister for Health. Her guests are as wildly different as they come, which is saying something considering there are only six of them (not including Janet). The night is a seamless dance of political and social ideals mixed with the most biting and sharp barbs and deconstructions. All the while, the group are waiting for the final guest, with secrets and emotions boiling over into a thrilling climax.
There are only seven people in this cast, and they are seven of the most fine actors working at the moment, however for me it is Patricia Clarkson ('Maze Runner', 'Shutter Island') who steals the show. She is camp and witty and manages to eat up every scene she is in; I am waiting for the world of reaction GIFs she will no doubt spark from this performance. Speaking of camp, there is a certain theatricality to the whole film that is absolutely divine to watch, because there are really only four rooms we see (living room, bathroom, kitchen and courtyard), giving a-self contained feeling to the whole thing.
There is a reason why when there are very limited circumstances in films that the acting and script can really shine. By limiting it all to this one setting, implications for past events are stronger in the audiences' mind because (for once) we are being made to really think for ourselves, once again in a very theatrical sort of way. I left my screening of this decadent film wondering if the script was available and when they would be turning it into a stage play.
No opinion is truly black or white. Each character is made of multiple shades of grey and they all combine in a wicked milieu of dark comedy.
Sally Potter is a complete and utter veteran to quality film making (think 'Orlando') and she knows exactly what she is doing. The film is 71 minutes long from start to finish; it honestly needed no more time than this and is a testament to how a tight script and tight editing can make for a most engrossing film. What is more amazing still is that Potter not only directed but also wrote ‘The Party’, and it baffles me that there were no screenwriting nominations for it. Complete and utter outrage!
It needs to be said that, yes, the whole film is in black and white, but it's a device that works brilliantly. No opinion is truly black or white. Each character is made of multiple shades of grey and they all combine in a wicked milieu of dark comedy. I love to see such developed characters, but these characters do the near impossible – you start out liking everyone, and by the end of the film there is a certain sense of loving to hatred towards them all. From Cillian Murphy’s ('Dark Night', 'Breakfast on Pluto') deranged coke-addicted stressed character to Timothy Spall’s ('Harry Potter') drunk pessimist, there is not a single foot out of place.
I’m going to stop writing now but, honestly, ‘The Party’ is a wickedly dark, funny and thought-provoking ride. At 71 minutes long, there is not a moment out of place or not needed - and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be gripped from the start to the very end. It’s a masterpiece, and probably a party I would gladly attend again.