The Party (2017)

  • Time: 71 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Sally Potter
  • Cast: Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall


To celebrate her long-awaited prestigious post as a Shadow Minister for Health and, hopefully, the stepping stone to party leadership, the newly-appointed British opposition politician, Janet, is throwing a party for friends at her London flat. Of course, in this select and intimate soirée, apart from Bill–Janet’s self-denying academic husband–a motley crew of elite hand-picked guests have been invited: There’s April, the sourly cynical American best friend; her unlikely German husband, Gottfried; there’s also Jinny and Martha; and finally, Tom, the smooth banker in the impeccable suit. But inevitably, before dinner is served, the upbeat ambience will shatter to pieces, as festering secrets will start surfacing in this perfect domestic war-zone. Undoubtedly, after this night, things will never be the same again.

One comment

  • Sally Potter’s The Party assembles a dream cast and squanders them in a pitch black, drawing-room comedy that feels infinitely longer than its 71 minutes.

    The Party of the title refers to the small group of friends and family that Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has gathered to celebrate her newly appointed role as Health Minister, though she may be the only one in a celebratory mood. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) is sat in a chair, staring blankly at the garden and numbing himself with alcohol. Her friend April (Patricia Clarkson) arrives with her longtime boyfriend Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a German hippy-dippy spiritualist, and announces that she’s breaking it off with him. Wanker-banker Tom (Cillian Murphy) arrives sans wife Marianne but with a gun and a stash of coke. Meanwhile, Martha (Cherry Jones), a specialist in “gender differentiation on American utopianism,” has just learned that she and her younger partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer) are about to have triplets.

    With everyone in place, it’s time for the party to get started and Bill kicks off the festivities by announcing that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. As if that wasn’t enough of a bombshell for Janet and the rest to absorb, he adds that he’ll be leaving her to spend what little time he has left with the woman he’s been seeing for at least a year. Janet is rightly shocked and furious, though the ever cynical April takes it in stride, “I expect the worse of everyone in the name of realism.” She may be the only one for Bill’s revelations reverberate through the group, uncovering more secrets and bitter resentments.

    There’s been a long cinematic tradition of dinner parties from hell such as Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, though The Party comes nowhere near the scabrousness of the former or the stinging satire of the latter. Some may find April’s never-ending barbs – “Tickle an aromatherapist and you’ll find a fascist,” “You’re a first-class lesbian and a second-rate thinker” – and the increasing shedding of decorum sufficiently satisfying, whilst others may easily tire of the characters’ shrill shenanigans.

    The cast do well enough with the caricatures they’re given to work with, but the piece itself seems better suited to the stage rather than the screen, where its contrivances beggar belief and are made even more ludicrous.

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