The Party

In Cinemas Now

A comedy of tragic proportions.

British black comedy about a fancy dinner party that doesn't go according to plan. Stars Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy and Timothy Spall.

"Career politician Janet (Kristen Scott Thomas) is celebrating her promotion. Well, that's the plan, anyway. Things go hilariously downhill as soon as Janet's uber-cynical bestie, April (Clarkson), and other perfectly dreadful guests arrive. Naturally everyone has something to hide and everyone's going to receive their just desserts long before the actual dessert arrives." (Sydney Film Festival)

Trailers

Awards

Winner of the Guild Film Prize (Potter), 2017 Berlin International Film Festival

Directed by

  • Sally Potter('Orlando', 'The Man Who Cried', 'Ginger & Rosa')

Written by

Comedy, Drama

71mins

Rating: MA15+ Strong drug use

UK

Even though this one-room British film shot in black and white assembles the talents of Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, Bruno Ganz and Cillian Murphy, this isn’t some Oscar bait based-on-a-play dissection on the follies of the human condition. Writer-director Sally Potter’s The Party is an up-the-guts intellectual comedy for people sick of intellectuals, cutting with its script and performances for 70 minutes before booting you out the door. It’s not memorable, but it’s short-lasting fun.

Thomas plays a host to her own party, celebrating a career milestone until her lethargic husband (Spall) drops a bombshell announcement right when the champagne pops. The guests attempt to deal with this situation only to call out the other unacknowledged elephants in the room. If I sound annoyingly vague, it’s intentional – the humour relies on plot turns taking you by surprise.

There isn’t a single slack performance in this ensemble. Spall somehow makes a lumbering and pathetic loaf feel lively; Mortimer and Jones play a couple that bicker with believable angst; Ganz eats up the role of a cliché-talking “spiritualist” who isn’t as wise as he thinks he is; Murphy goes against his good looks as a banker who sweats out his insecurities; and Thomas keeps the comedy grounded as the distressed straight woman. However, Clarkson hits the hardest as a no-fucks-to-give vixen, mining each line for the most gold. (“Sisterhood is a very aging concept, sweetheart.”)

The Party will almost definitely get on the nerves of those who overuse the term “stagey” when criticising bottle films. Most of these exchanges and monologues are very turn-based, coming across more like re-enacted debates than real-life kerfuffles. The ending also doesn’t fully satisfy the subplots, but it’s a classy finish nonetheless – like tying four presents together with one shiny bow.

FilmInk (Australia)

press

The Party is whip-smart satire at its very best.

Little White Lies

press

A claret catastrophe of upper middle class navel gazing and hackneyed barbs.

The Times (UK)

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There are scenes where Scott Thomas plays several competing emotions simultaneously, often through grimaces alone, but with masterful aplomb. What do we want? More Scott Thomas comedies! Now!

Empire (UK)

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Patricia Clarkson steals the show, but everyone in Potter's gifted cast gets their moment to shine in a sharp-edged, claustrophobic parlour piece that puts the boot into middle-class mores.

TimeOut (London)

press

It's openly theatrical, but if it feels like a film of a play, it's a play you really should see.

Total Film (UK)

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Enjoyably acted by a fine ensemble cast, it crisply skewers the hypocrisies of its left-liberal, middle-class characters.

The Guardian (UK)

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Unassuming and old-fashioned funny entertainment isn't exactly what we associate with this film-maker, but that's what she has very satisfyingly served up here.

Hollywood Reporter

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Over 71 crisp minutes of fast-paced verbal combat, Potter tests the age-old theory that it's all fun and games until somebody gets knocked unconscious.

Variety (USA)

press

A deliciously heightened, caviar-black comedy that sets up its brittle, bourgeois characters like bowling pins and gleefully knocks them down in 71 minutes flat.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

press

Sally Potter's first film in five years is short and superbly bittersweet.