The Party, written and directed by Sally Potter, offers one of those situations where you shouldn’t be laughing but you can’t help yourself because the biting dialogue is just so on point. With a wonderful selection of characters and a premise that is simple and engaging, this film delivers a quick little hit of meaningful fun. I left the cinema with a grin on my face, but what was about, The Party that caused me to feel so satisfied? Let’s explore that question and more in my review.
What starts as a simple little party where old friends are getting together to celebrate Janet’s – played by Kristen Scott Thomas – new position as health minister for the current leading political party. But things soon quickly spiral out of control as revelations surface and unexpected truths reveal themselves. Everyone’s lives will be forever changed, but what could cause a celebration to become such a hostile disaster?
It is in the films varied, dynamic selection of characters that it comes alive. Seven characters in total, all within one house for a wee get together and they all play off of one another wonderfully. It felt like the film had an effortless ability to set-up and establish each character as they entered the house. I was instantly able to get a handle on who each person was, and what particular tone they would bring to proceedings. It’s so nice to see a film understand who its characters are, lay them out in a clear to understand way, and then play with them all in fun, sometimes distressing ways.
Too often do films seem to struggle to find the voice of the character or establish them within the film itself, but in The Party, these old friends who have all known each other for years, feel like exactly that: people who know one another and interact in a way that feels true.
While each character plays off every other character really well, they also stand by themselves as intriguing individuals. The person who caught my attention immediately was, April – played by Patricia Clarkson – who has some of the best lines in the film. She is perhaps the only honest person among the party goers. Everything she says is exactly how she feels – there is never a point where April holds back, no matter the situation. She had me and the audience around me, continually laughing – and I don’t mean a wee chuckle, I mean audible, satisfying laughs. April will cut to the core of a conversation, lay down her unforgiving commentary and then step back and watch the damage that it causes. She is the person we all wish we could be but are too afraid (or nice) to ever be. Though, as things progress and truths are revealed – it’s funny to see the pleasant, British tone fade away and pure, untamed honesty is unleashed. No one knows how to hurt you more than your friends and loved ones who have known you for years.
But it is of course not just April who shines. I could breakdown each character individually and give them their own paragraph of exploration, because as I stated a wee bit back, each of them feels fully fleshed out as an individual, despite us only having morsels of information about them.
Why I think they feel as fleshed out as they do, is rather than the film offering mounds of background on each character through ham-fisted dialogue, it instead explores the characters through how they interact and what their opinions are on certain subjects. This is how we learn about them and begin to understand the type of people they are. I found it to be much more effective that just learning the history of each person. To learn of a person through how they perceive a situation or act, despite the consequences of those actions, is a much more enlightening way of engaging you with a character.
When the group would discuss their beliefs on faith or modern medicine – I at first felt it to be a little heavy-handed, as I thought the film was pushing an agenda on me and I felt detached from the film because of it – but I then realised that the film was utilising it to explore the characters. Bill – played by Timothy Spall – and Gottfried – played by Bruno Ganz – trading ideas on spiritual healing and how, Bill may be ready to shift his opinion over to considering it, is revealing to where the character may be and how he may be feeling. What better way is there to learn about someone than through a topic of discussion that we can all understand, have an opinion on, and thus relate to?
But don’t worry, The Party isn’t a bunch of oldies sitting around arguing about various heady topics. The film is about personal revelations that will see the group slowly being torn apart and in a strange masochistic way, it’s a joy to watch happen. The humour is dark and though you may feel bad at times for laughing, the honesty that surrounds the humorous comments, make holding back a laugh difficult. It’s nice to sit and watch a film where it actually makes you laugh.
There is also a rhythm to the film that always keeps it moving and feeling full of momentum. It’s almost like the film dances in its editing. Jumping around, from one side story to another and it’s aided by a soundtrack that perfectly juxtaposes the tone of the moment. But while it’s moving from one sub-plot to another, it also makes sure to always keep the bigger picture in the forefront of your mind. The Party is a film that always feels like it’s moving with a purpose, while also taking you on a ride of emotion.
At one moment you can be laughing along and the very next moment you can be hit with a heavy piece of information that will surely alter the group forever. But weirdly, the tone of the film never felt affected. It finds a balance in its characters, who all react in their own way, meaning the scene itself is varied in the types of tonal reactions that are occurring in it. So, while Jinny – played by Emily Mortimer – may be distressed at one side of the room, Tom – played by Cillian Murphy – will be (comically) losing his composure at the other side of it.
When it comes to the overall plot, the film is very simple to follow. With everything taking place in a house and everyone having their own mini problems; Martha – played by Cherry Jones – and Jinny are having a domestic, Tom is considering doing something truly awful, etc. But it’s the future of Bill and Janet’s relationship – which is crumbling down around them and taking as many of their friends down with them as possible – that is the primary driving force in the film. Everyone is involved in some way, and it’s what keeps the film moving. It is also a plot that is forever evolving. As new information reveals itself, the dynamic in the house shifts and the film moves up a gear. The madness escalates and we the audience sit there and watches as the unbelievable downfall unfolds. It’s oddly glorious.
For me, it was a nice change to go see a small little British film that knew exactly what it wanted to be and put all its attention onto achieving it. Also, I find a modern, black and white film (oh yeah, I guess I should have mentioned the whole film is black and white) to be a nice pallet cleanser. After a lot of loud, colourful films, for so long, there’s something refreshing about the simplicity of a black and white film.
I found this film to be an absolute joy to watch. At only 71 minutes, the film offers a frantic little snapshot into some genuinely interesting (yet damaged) people who I at all times enjoyed watching.
I absolutely recommend, The Party. It’s short, easy to settle into and gives over so much, in terms of its characters and their lives. If I had to try and quickly sell someone on it, I would say: It’s fun, fast and witty. The ending is also one of the more satisfying I’ve experienced in quite a while. So if you find the time, make sure to go see, The Party, it is well worth it.
Do you have any feedback on my review? If so, please leave it in the comments section down below. Like what you read, may I ask you give both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – a follow? But I’ll finish up by thanking you for your time and wishing you a great day.