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article imageReview: ‘The Party’ is a master class in acting Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 3, 2018 in Entertainment
‘The Party’ is an exceptionally acted drama about a group of couples who unexpectedly confront their relationships’ shortcomings at what was supposed to be a friendly gathering.
Secrets, doubts and resentments have a tendency to bubble up in social gatherings — particularly those with a wide range of personalities. One person’s confidence is another’s betrayal; one person’s certainty is another’s fear; and one person’s joy is another’s irritation. As the night wears on and alcohol flows more freely, many things are said that can never be taken back. Confrontations are messy, but someone generally insists on pursuing them to “clear the air.” And then everyone goes home, perhaps a little sadder and/or a little wiser. Thus, we have The Party.
In honour of Janet’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) new political post, she and Bill (Timothy Spall) are having a small gathering of their closest friends to celebrate. April (Patricia Clarkson) is her stalwart supporter in the midst of breaking up with Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), whose Zen philosophies she can no longer stand. Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer) are expecting a child, while Tom (Cillian Murphy) arrives incredibly frazzled and without his wife. However, everyone is acting a bit oddly and before the evening’s end, all of the dark secrets their harbouring will be revealed.
Shot in luminous black-and-white, the group’s emotions feel starker as they contend with various disloyalties, unwanted confessions and unforgettable (unforgivable?) arguments. The 71-minute film only really utilizes four locations around the house: the kitchen, bathroom, living room and backyard. The camera’s focus moves flawlessly from one conversation (or solitude moment) to the next, maintaining the mood via its monotonous colour and disregard for the start of an exchange. The picture is tight and deftly acted as the seven-person cast never falters in conveying this utter emotional chaos, which is only being held in check by the stoniness of certain personalities. Audiences will be riveted as they watch these characters implode while dinner burns in the oven.
Writer/director Sally Potter’s script is a lean and sharp piece of writing that keeps the characters in constant transition as new details are revealed. It turns out none of the relationships represented at the dinner party are infallible as the cracks begin to show, or in some cases irreparably widen. But in spite of emotions running high, there are no dramatics or hysterics — these are sophisticated people who won’t allow themselves to look like Jerry Springer’s guests, even in the privacy of their home. Instead, their conversations are emotionally pointed and borderline rational, save for a few uncontrollable slaps and Spall’s brilliantly curious opening performance. This film is a master class in intimate stage acting in spite of the presence of a camera and the division of the screen.
Director: Sally Potter
Starring: Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas and Patricia Clarkson
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