"With the aid of a brilliant cast and a simple concept, Sally Potter gifted the audience with a witty tragic comedy about ordinary life that has a purely British soul"
As far as British comedies go, The Party fits right into this kind of genre. Set in an English apartment, the film starts with a dinner celebration for Janet, who just got the position of Minister of Health.
Invited to the party are her closest friends and collaborators who helped her, and her political party, succeed. Everything seems fine, apart from Janet’s husband Bill, who is rather sulky and drunk. It doesn’t take long for the celebration to turn into a tragedy, once Bill reveals what has him so preoccupied.
Directed by Sally Potter, The Party is a film structured as if it was a theatrical piece; the scenes are all shot in a closed space, moving between the kitchen, the backyard, the living room and the toilet. Everything is in black and white, which sets a more decadent and dramatic tone for the film and almost makes the audience feel like they are watching a old movie instead of a contemporary work.
All the actors are followed at close range and that highlights their behaviours and emotions. Exposing the cast to such close shoots gives them the chance to really showcase their talent in using their facial expressions to convey their emotions, which are quite exaggerated and staged just like it would be done for a play that is being a pantomime for reality.
The cast ensemble is made of the most talented English actors, however the strongest performances are delivered by Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy and Kristin Scott Thomas. Patricia Clarkson plays the part of the cynic April. Her character is the only one who brings comic relief to the story. Her sharp and realistic remarks make her the meanest and most sincere protagonist of the story. She doesn’t have any filters and says everything as it is and, for this reason, she is the funniest among the cast with her dark humour and straight forward attitude.
Cillian Murphy plays the part of the erratic and angry Tom perfectly. He is constantly agitated, he is under the influence of cocaine and betrayal. He comes to the party to uncover the truth and he is the reason why from a celebration the party turns into a sudden tragedy.
Kristin Scott Thomas is the queen of the house, at first she portrays Janet, the woman who has it all: the perfect house, the perfect marriage, the perfect promotion and still the chance to be the perfect wife. However, her façade crumbles as soon as the audience discovers that she is being unfaithful. As soon as this small bit of information is revealed all pretences start to be peeled off.
After her husband Bill delivers this bad news, she becomes desperate to take control again of the life she is about to see changed. She starts to become more erratic and almost replaces Tom in the role. She is upset about her husband’s news and her reaction becomes overly dramatic until it culminates at the end of the film, which is where the movie first started.
What makes The Party an enjoyable dark comedy is the fact that it doesn’t shy away from making fun of the contemporary realities. In the film politics, artificial insemination and holistic medicine are all discussed with sarcasm by the actual party concerned. The irony is strong throughout the film and, although the movie takes a turn towards a tragic end, the comedy aspect of it is prominent. With the aid of a brilliant cast and a simple concept, Sally Potter gifted the audience with a witty tragic comedy about ordinary life that has a purely British soul.