The Party ★★


A uniformly top-notch cast is squandered in this labo(u)red farce that feels like a script Sally Potter might have had kicking around in different drafts since the Blairite 90s. At a celebration honoring Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), the Minister of Health who has just been voted head of the Labour Party, scads of secrets emerge among her bourgie friends and her long-suffering husband (a dramatically slimmed-down Timothy Spall -- looking good, Tim!). There are folks two-timing each other and recriminations about whether a pregnancy is actually wanted and yes, Tolstoy, there is even a gun.

Considering how stagebound the whole affair is, props to cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov for his creation of fluid space and some really substantial black-and-white images. And while (as per usual, in my opinion) Cillian Murphy chews the scenery, and Bruno Ganz is mostly assigned the thankless role of German interloper, there's strong work from Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, and especially Patricia Clarkson as the snippy voice of reason.

Sadly, it's all in service to a schematic, unfunny production that is a bit like a 5th generation mimeograph of Molière, someone's theoretical idea of what a farce ought to look like.

One final note: it's not lost on me that Potter probably intends the title to be a play on words, given Janet's ascension to the Labour leadership. "The Party," as displayed by this group of ne'er-do-wells, is hopelessly self-involved and haute-bourgeois to a person. So perhaps The Party is Potter's sly attempt at demonstrating just why Britain so desperately needs Jeremy Corbyn. But that's a reading that takes us pretty far afield of the text itself.