Sally Potter’s latest endeavour is The Party, which feels akin to a stage play, imbued with a sense of heightened realism that can be found in the likes of Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party. Set mostly in real time, in a single location and with a small collective of actors, this chamber piece is very easy to indulge in and get on board with – though for a filmmaker this talented, it does feel somewhat easy as it’s hard not to expect just a little bit more.
Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) is the host of a dinner party, celebrating her recent promotion to Shadow Health Minister with her nearest and dearest. Though a cause for champagne, her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) seems to be in a rather difficult mood, reluctant to have his spirits lifted, in spite of the fact that April (Patricia Clarkson) has arrived and in the mood for conversation. Her partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) is also somewhat devoid of dialogue, for he seems intent on meditating while the other guests get acquainted. They include gay partners Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and Martha (Cherry Jones) as well as Tom (Cillian Murphy), who arrives high on cocaine, and for some reason, he has a gun in his pocket. Well, either that or he’s just really happy to see everyone.
Alas, he most certainly isn’t, and fully intends on using this weapon across the course of this bizarre afternoon. This adds a certain intensity to proceedings, which comes out mostly through the terrific performance of Spall, who impresses, just as always does. Clarkson is the scene-stealer however, provided with the vast majority of the film’s best lines, making her something of a crowd-pleaser in this fast-paced, transient comedy. Though overt at times in its humour, the film is grounded by its pertinent portrayal of modern day left-wing politics in Britain, injecting a farcical edge to proceedings, where it seems nobody quite knows what it is they’re doing.
This gives the film a relevant edge, but other than there, there is a timeless quality to this piece, enhanced by the use of monochrome, to make for a visually enticing endeavour. It’s just a shame the feature becomes to generic in parts, saved, most of the time, by a captivating, entertaining screenplay, and the fact there’s a small collective of excellent, accomplished actors delivering the lines. Oh, and another plus is the fact this film is 71 minutes long. Rejoice!