This British comedy-drama is surprising, witty and captivating.
The sparks and barbs fly fast and furiously in writer-director Sally Potter's new film, "The Party." When seven friends gather to celebrate the hostess' prestigious political appointment, things get nasty.
In the opening scene Kristin Scott Thomas' character, Janet, is visibly distraught, pointing a gun at an unseen person who has just entered her London townhouse. Immediately, the film flashes back to how this has come to be. Janet is preparing canapes in the kitchen as her guests are arriving. She's also flirting on the phone with a secret lover as her husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), is getting quite smashed in the living room. He's mustering up the courage to drop some significant bombshells.
Janet's best friend, April (Patricia Clarkson), is first to arrive with her beau in tow, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). He's a spiritual healer and life coach. She finds him reprehensible. He absolutely adores her. When handsome financier, Tom (Cillian Murphy), arrives, April refers to him as "wanker banker" while he rushes to the loo for a snort of coke. His wife is conspicuously not with him, raising curiosity amongst the other guests. Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), a lesbian couple expecting triplets, are the last to arrive.
Seems that all of them are harboring dark secrets which, when systematically revealed, are totally unexpected. Uncontrollable gasping and giggling are provoked at every turn as proper British decorum degenerates into a vicious battlefield in a war of words.
Ms. Potter's script is as witty as it gets. Political ideology and philosophical musings are shot out at the audience at machine gun pace. One-liners are clever and abundant but not overly so. The film is a trim 71 minutes, never wearing thin on its viewers. She shoots in black and white, emphasizing that the goings-on are anything but ... decisions that make this one delicious film to devour.
The acting and casting is nothing short of impeccable. Mr. Spall overdoes his character's moroseness, but surprisingly, it works. Clarkson is at her best cracking wise and Kristin Scott Thomas unravels with such precision, it's captivating to watch.
The opening shot is also the closing shot in "The Party." It's a shocking revelation that you never saw coming and will leave you reeling.