Movie Review: ‘THE PARTY’ has fun while the world burns

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Kip Mooney // Film Critic

THE PARTY

Rated R, 71 minutes.
Director: Sally Potter
Cast: Kristin Scott ThomasTimothy SpallBruno GanzPatricia ClarksonCherry JonesEmily Mortimer and Cillian Murphy

Movies and plays about well-educated upper-class types acting, like buffoons at parties, have been around for just about as long as we’ve had movies and plays. Firing off some zingers at the snobby elite usually brings a sense of satisfaction, provided they land and don’t feel too hypocritical.

Sally Potter’s brief but spot-on THE PARTY is one that works. At just 71 minutes, this movie is short but never outstays its welcome. With a cast of only seven people in a single location, I was surprised to learn it doesn’t have any stage-bound roots, even if it at times it feels like a filmed play.

This group of friends has gathered at a London house to celebrate Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), who’s just been promoted to Minister of Health. It’s big news, and she’s not the only one with it. Jinny (Emily Mortimer), has just found out she’s having triplets with her wife Martha (Cherry Jones). And that string of news inspires Bill (Timothy Spall) to reveal two shocking secrets that throw the entire night into chaos.

Throughout the evening, there are lots of tears and slaps as information from the other characters come to light. There’s also a gun, which absolutely fulfills Anton Chekov’s principle that if you show it in the first act, it has to go off in the second or third. But who uses it and against whom is part of the fun.

While the cast is uniformly excellent, the best of the bunch is Patricia Clarkson, who cynically comments on everything that comes out of every character’s mouth. It’s early, and yet this is a small film, but she’d be a solid nominee for Best Supporting Actress next year – an award she’s gotten from some British critics groups.

THE PARTY is a film of modest ambition and charms, but it’s a good time for the audience, even if it’s not for the characters.

[Grade: B]

THE PARTY is now playing in theaters.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.