Spend Some Time With a Hodgepodge of Sophisticated Savages


Sally Potter’s new film, The Party, starts with a door opening. It is to a party, which as you can guess, is the same party the movie is named after. You see a woman named Janet (the always great Kristin Scott Thomas) open the door. But she does not look happy. In fact, she looks downright upset. IN FACT, she has a gun. Which she then points at the camera, at the audience.

At you.

And before she can pull the trigger, we flash to the beginning of the party. And the story begins.

Luckily, it’s a short story. Not that that’s a rip on the film at all. It’s just nice to find a director who is confident enough to tell a story and hit the emotions that need to be hit in a brisk seventy-one minutes. And Potter pulls it off splendidly.

The audience is truly a character in this film.

The aforementioned Janet has been appointed to the new position of England’s shadow ministry of health. Her guests for this celebration are a slew of some of the best people in the country, if you measure by stature alone, or the worst people in the country, if you measure by morality alone. Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) is her life coach. Patricia Clarkson plays an apathetic guest who simply analyzes every situation. Cillian Murphy plays a coked out husband with a gun he brought to the party. And Timothy Spall is Janet’s husband, who drops a huge bomb that turns the party of celebration into a party of mourning.

Potter so knows the rule of cinema that a gun in the first act must go off in the third, that she gives you the flash forward in the beginning, thus making the mystery who gets the gun, not if it’ll go off.

With such a short run time, any more plot details would delve into some of the few possible spoilers. But, how Potter navigates the occurrences of the film is quite intelligent. From the opening shot, the audience is clearly a guest at this party. There are times that certain guests know certain secrets about each other, and we the audience slowly see who knows what. And there are moments that we, like a guest, know secrets that others don’t.

The Party is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf meets Woody Allen with some Clue thrown in for good measure. So, like the film, which  is brief and to the point, it’s best to keep this review the same, and just let you know that you should RSVP yourself to this party.