Review: The Party | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: The Party

Film Critic Phoebe Christofi implores you not to overlook low-key British drama The Party

A tragicomedy. A display of social behaviours. An A-List cast. The Party could be defined as a film in its absolute simplest form, so pure was it in its creation. Bells and whistles aside, all this movie needed to be great was a stellar cast, and boy did they deliver. No music. No colour. Just acting. With nothing distracting you from the plot, your task was to purely observe the social behaviours and interactions amongst the group of friends. With actors Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Bruno Ganz and Cherry Jones all interacting in an intimate setting, they kept the plot consistently flowing with both ease and skill.

A group of friends attend a dinner party at Janet (Scott Thomas) and Bill’s (Spall) house to celebrate Janet’s promotion to Shadow Minister for Health. At the beginning of the film, you’re introduced to the idea that Janet has a secret admirer or lover whose calls and texts constantly interrupting the chaos of the evening.

The Party could be defined as a film in its absolute simplest form, so pure was it in its creation
As guests start to arrive the mysterious caller is not forgotten and curiosity sets in as to who it may be, and if they’re going to spontaneously appear. The more characters that are introduced, the more the evening starts to unravel into a chaotic mess. For an evening where the aim was meant to commend an achievement, by the climax of the film, everyone’s baggage is out on the table, or in some cases, out cold on the floor. A key element of the film is the absence of Tom’s (Murphey) wife Maryanne who is a friend of Janet’s from work. Her absence proves to cause more problems than anyone anticipated and  essentially is the crux of the plot. The illusive character who you never actually get to meet, is at the beginning of the film highly praised and glorified, yet by the end is the cause of everyone’s issues. In a concoction of canapes, cocaine and cheeky charisma, the film tackles the issues of commitment, love affairs, illness and philosophical ideas. You’re left wondering not if something bad is going to happen, but when.

The film was surprisingly aesthetically pleasing with its monochrome scenes and lack of soundtrack. There was something so authentic in the way that Bill (Spall) created the sound of the film through the crackly vinyl he played on his record player. This added comedic value to the plot as whenever another character meddled with the records, the tempo of the music would not match the mood of the scene, but rather created an ironic ambience.

The film is highlighting a 21st century Britain, with its key issues of disillusionment, mainstream politics, the UK’s health service, and feminism
Furthermore, Patricia Clarkson’s witty one liners were arguably one of the highlights of the film. The humour of her cynical reactions to everyone’s problems were witty and entertaining, in contrast to the rest of the casts hysteria. Her savage satire kept the film intellectually playful and her character easily bounced off whatever issues any other character revealed. Taking place over what seems like real-time, the film would be perfectly suited to a play, just as it fits perfectly with being on screen. Filmed while the Brexit vote was taking place, the film is highlighting a 21st century Britain, with its key issues of disillusionment, mainstream politics, the UK’s health service, and feminism. A brilliant portrayal of human misconceptions and social behaviours, and how one occurrence can impact any number of people.

Verdict: In a world full of superhero movies, spy films and major franchises, it’s consoling to know that there is still something categorised as artistic theatre in existence. Unapologetically mundane with what is implied as an extraordinary plot twist, the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf style film comes under the category of “Dinner Parties from Hell”, making you question what revelations could be uncovered at your next gathering.

Rating: 8/10


1st November 2017 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

31st October 2017 at 8:41 pm

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The Observor