The Party: NZIFF Review
Continuing the British desire to only unburden repressed feelings in social gatherings, Sally Potter's The Party builds a fragile house of cards at a soirée, only to consequently scatter the deck without any food being served.
Opening with a 'how did they get here?' moment, the black and white melodrama plays out with some acidic aplomb by the troupe of players.
All gathered to celebrate Kristin Scott Thomas' Janet's ascension to ministry and politics, a group of fractured and apparently fragile friends begin to unravel in only the delicious way the Brits know how.
As the group comes together, Timothy Spall's Bill sits solo in the front room, hunched and haunted on a chair, with a wine glass in one hand, and with a near catatonic look on his face. But as the night goes on, everyone comes under scrutiny in some form or other.
Like a scab being ripped off or an itch incessantly being scratched, The Party's thrills come from the unexpected turn of events and the inevitably entangled revelations.
Perhaps it teeters perilously towards the end with disbelief, but Potter's black and white film crackles with dry acidity and typical scorn throughout, all topped off with a deliciously dark dry tragedy languishing within. It's fraught with spoilers to unveil what transpires within, but needless to say the troupe of players from Spall's distanced Bill, Thomas' haughty and yet easy to humble Janet, Patricia Clarkson's acidic April to Cillian Murphy's on edge Tom, all delivering in spades.
It helps the script is laced with one-liners and withering moments, as the sourness of the situation becomes more evident. In many ways, the film feels like a play with its whirling deliciousness on words and desire to ratchet up the moments to near contrived, but in Potter's hand, the curt run time feels just about right; any more would over-egg this pudding and any further reveals would push this dangerously close to cliche.
The Party's power lies in the picking over of the relationships and the unbinding of those ties; it's thanks to all involved that the polish and sheen comes tumbling from the screen; in black and white and close up, every detail is nuanced; from Spall's heavily white flecked beard to Murphy's drug-induced sweats, Potter's camera captures every subtlety.
This is most definitely one party to RSVP to at the Festival.