Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson
Director: Sally Potter
Running Time: 71 mins
The Party is a British film about seven friends who get together to celebrate a promotion, however when one makes a unexpected announcement, the afternoon takes a turn for the worse.
I enjoyed this film. Although it’s not quite the slick black comedy that it thinks it is, it’s an engaging and entertaining watch throughout, with a collection of great performances combined with strong humour and decent drama, as well as an enjoyable level of melodrama that generally works fairly well, even if some of the film’s main turning points don’t always prove as mindblowing as they’re intended to be.
Let’s start off on the bright side, with the performances. With an A-list cast of experienced actors, the performances were always going to be good here, but I was really impressed to see some performers even go outside their typical roles and show off something a little different.
While not all of the cast is equally amazing, the film’s real stand-outs are definitely Kristin Scott Thomas, Bruno Ganz and Patricia Clarkson. In what is effectively the lead role, Scott Thomas commands a strong presence at the centre of the story, and with her abundant experience in these very dialogue-heavy dramas, she rattles off every line to perfection, all the while giving a performance that shows her losing her rag in a way that we don’t often see, which I was really impressed by.
Meanwhile, Bruno Ganz is great in a much smaller, but very funny supporting role. Playing the aged husband of Patricia Clarkson’s cynical character, he’s a man that holds various spiritual beliefs, dismissing the modern world and more reasonable thought in exchange for more free-thinking ideals. What’s great is how Ganz plays that element of the character up to such an extent that it contrasts enormously with both his co-stars and his own appearance, proving a consistently entertaining presence from start to finish, and easily the film’s most light-hearted and enjoyable character of all.
Finally, the best performances of the film in my view comes from Patricia Clarkson. Her character is a cynical woman who disapproves of a lot of her friends’ world views (particularly her husband’s free love philosophy), but she’s also a woman who makes a point of her loyalties towards certain people over others. It’s an interesting personality that’s difficult to pull off, as it’s the recipe for a rather irritating persona in general, but Clarkson hits it spot-on, and while making her character fully convincing, is still surprisingly likable and entertaining enough in the comedic context of the film to be engaging, which I was really impressed to see.
Now, while the performances are definitely the film’s strongest point, there are other elements of it that do work just as well. For example, Sally Potter’s directing is sharp and entertaining, keeping up a fast pace over the course of the film’s extremely brief running time, and that in turn makes a very dialogue-heavy film really pop with energy throughout.
There is an argument to say that the film doesn’t need to be in black-and-white, as it doesn’t really offer any extra atmospheric or dramatic value to proceedings (arguably apart from the ending), and may just be something that could turn some viewers off.
When it comes to the story, it’s also a mixture of good and bad. On the one hand, I enjoyed the way in which the evening progresses in getting worse and worse, moving in directions that you really wouldn’t expect earlier on, and making for an engaging and entertaining watch throughout, even if some elements do get a little silly.
On the other hand, I felt that the story was missing a certain sense of sleek to really work well. It’s fast and short, but I never felt that I was on the rollercoaster ride of emotions that it’s aiming to provide, or that the likes of the brilliant Perfect Strangers manages to make work so well.
Above all, its twists don’t quite have the immediate impact needed to make the film as dramatically stunning as possible. Although the main revelations are unexpected, and do lead to a lot of commotion, I wasn’t gasping as soon as I heard them, rather having to wait a bit to understand what was really going on as the characters explain a bit more, which was a little frustrating.
Overall, however, I was impressed by The Party. It’s a short, sharp comedy-drama, and offers up something a little different right the way through. With a collection of great performances acting out an entertaining – albeit not flawless – story, as well as a rapid pace throughout, it’s a very enjoyable and thoroughly engaging watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.