October 5, 2022

The Party (2017)
Grade: 54/100

Director: Sally Potter
Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall

What it's about. Set in London, England. Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just been named to the shadow cabinet, and she throws a party to celebrate. Invited are longtime friends April (Patricia Clarkson), Martha (Cherry Jones), and Tom (Cillian Murphy). April brings along her boyfriend, self-help guru Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), and Martha is accompanied by her partner, Jinny (Emily Mortimer). Janet's glum husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), is also present.

We soon learn that Janet is having an affair, Jinny is expecting triplets, Bill is terminally ill, Bill is leaving Janet, Bill is having an affair with Tom's wife, April is breaking up with Gottfried, Jinny is breaking up with Martha, Tom has brought a handgun to shoot Bill, and Janet finds the gun and decides to shoot Tom's wife. Janet assaults Bill, and Tom nearly kills Bill. The guests should all have stayed home.

How others will see it. This black and white "comedy" looks like it cost almost nothing to make, as the entire cast consists of only seven actors and it is all filmed on a single existing set, Janet's house. The expense was apparently recovered, since at imdb.com there are 19K user votes. The film did pick up a smattering of awards on the festival circuit, aided by the politically correct gender of writer-director Sally Potter.

The user votes are good if not lofty. Women grade the film slightly higher than do men (6.8 versus 6.2) and Americans grade it lower than non-Americans (6.2 versus 6.5). 70% of the grades are between 6 and 8. A familiar cast helps matters, though none are under 40.

The user reviews are all over the map, but more are positive than not. Those who like the film call it a delightful black comedy, those who don't call it underwhelming and a disappointment.

How I felt about it. It is difficult to believe that any of these people were ever friends. It is even more difficult to believe that the wife of Tom is having an affair with the aged, wild-eyed, and somnambulant Bill. Jinny is pushing 50, but she is pregnant with triplets? April is insufferably rude, especially to her boyfriend. Break up with him if you please, but repeated catty verbal abuse is not funny.

The infrequent line works, but as a whole, the dialogue is laced with cruelty and desperation. Far too much happens, there are too many unbelievable revelations, the violence is a drag, and the direction is overdone. The only appealing character is Gottfried, who at least shows an interest in helping someone other than himself.