In Brief: This is a party you’ll want to attend. No invitation needed.
Writer-director Sally Potter’s The Party is one funny film. Too bad it’s not going to get the British born filmmaker’s much attention state side. You can find it this week at Portland’s Living Room Theaters and in other cities at this art house and that. If you can find it, this one is worth catching.
Potter’s film is set in the home of Janet and Bill. She’s just become one of her British political party’s most important leaders. Janet and Bill toss a party to celebrate. All is not well in their relationship. The movie opens with Bill pretty drunk, very depressed and not all that coherent.
Janet is on the phone with a “friend” and has a secret. It doesn’t take long to figure out what.
Her best pal is the American April who is cynical to the point of nastiness. April’s husband Gottfried tends to babble. She’s very fond of nastily telling him to shut up and that going to soon be rid of him.
Gottfried isn’t phased in the least and keeps on smiling and babbling.
Then there’s Janet and April’s colleague Martha and her lover Jinny. They’re a couple who’ve opted to have a child. Jinny got artificially inseminated. She’s not real happy with the whole pregnancy thing and their relationship is teetering a bit, too.
Last to arrive at the party is Tom. His wife is Janet’s top aide. They’re waiting for her to arrive. Tom is a banker. He is not just a banker, he’s an unhappy banker. Tom is an unhappy banker with a gun. He intends to use the gun at the party.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess who’s the target.
With the lineup and characters, you can tell Potter’s comedy has lots of places to go and it manages to hit all that you imagine and a few you don’t. Like all great films, it starts with a great cast. Kristin Scott Thomas is Janet and Timothy Spall is hubby Bill. Patricia Clarkson and Bruno Ganz are April and Gottfried and Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer play Martha and Jinny.
Cillian Murphy does the nervous Tom.
The cast has a blast with their parts and Potter gives each great lines and lots to do. Clarkson has the most fun as the cynical April and she perfectly pitches clever and very glib political rants. Not to be outdone, her co-stars aren’t far behind.
Potter (1992’s art house fave Orlando) has them thrust and parry with each other through most of her film. A line is delivered. Score a point. Slam it back and score one of your own. On it goes for a little over an hour. Since it’s so short, the film plays more like a play than a movie. In my interview with Potter which I’ll post early next week, she said the play-like atmosphere is deliberate. So is the length. The Party says all it has to say in 71 minutes and says it better than most movies that are double the length.
Plus, the movie is in — I still absolutely love — black and white and is set in three rooms with a few shots just outside Janet and Bill’s home. So it is almost as much like a play as a movie. An even better description is a play that is done like a brilliant short story.
And the movie is brilliant.
Want to spend some movie money on something that’s packed with intelligence and not effects? Give yourself a party and catch The Party.
Director: Sally Potter
Stars: Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy
Done in black and white, short and to the point with terrific premise and great acting. What’s not to love. Average Joe Movie gives it a 5 on the 0 to 5 scale.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Click here to email him.