Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy
Written by: Sally Potter
Directed by: Sally Potter
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug use
Running Time: 71
Date: 02/16/2018

The Party (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Showing Up for a Showdown

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This playlike drama is sharp and good-looking (in black-and-white), but it's also shrill and aggressive, hurling its nasty, witty barbs at the speed of suffering; it's smart without being thoughtful.

In The Party, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) is throwing a get-together to celebrate her ascension to minister for health. While she prepares snacks and secretly texts with a mysterious, illicit lover, her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) drinks wine and absently listens to records.

Guests begin to arrive, including the cynical April (Patricia Clarkson), her husband, the calm spiritual healer Gottfried (Bruno Ganz); pregnant Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and her partner Martha (Cherry Jones), and finally Tom (Cillian Murphy), amped-up on cocaine and carrying a gun.

Bill announces that he is terminally ill and that he wishes to spend the rest of his days with his illicit lover, who happens to be Tom's wife. Much arguing and truth-telling ensues, until one angry partier gets ahold of Tom's gun...

The humor in The Party seems to be based upon subtle differences in political preferences, though the movie does little to explain or describe these. What remains is a collection of selfish, repellent behaviors. (Only Ganz's "healer" character seems kind and calm, but even he tends to respond to others with his own platitudes, rather than actually listening.)

The Party recalls Beatriz at Dinner, a movie that did take time out to explore the personal and political motivations of its characters. It came up with a more interesting clash, although, to be fair, The Party has a much more concise, ironic, and satisfying ending. It runs only 71 minutes, which is refreshing, but perhaps it could have been longer, adding some silences and moments to explore and reflect?

It's a disappointment, coming from the talented English director Sally Potter (Orlando, The Man Who Cried, Ginger & Rosa), who likes to take risks, but whose movies are usually more involving.

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