The Party (2017)

Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricial Clarkson, Cillian Murphy, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer

Directed by: Sally Potter

Rating: 1 2 3 4

It's a good job I knew that The Party was meant to be a comedy (clue: it says 'hilarious's on the poster) because otherwise, two large glasses of red wine in, I might have felt a wee bit bad about laughing so hard as so many people's lives fell so spectacularly apart.

Let's just say that if you thought the cast of Abigail's Party were having a bad night, you ain't seen nothing yet...

Kristin Scott Thomas is Janet, a high-flying career politician who's just been elected Shadow Minister of Health (not, as we first assume, Prime Minister – this cutting down to size is something she'll become more than familiar with by the end of the film). Janet is throwing an intimate soiree to celebrate her promotion. But with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Timothy Spall as Bill in Sally Potter's The Party

'Super supportive' husband Bill (Timothy Spall, looking about a hundred years old) has a revelation to make. And none of the guests – Janet's blunt-way-beyond-the point-of-rudeness bestie April (Patricia Clarkson) and her hippy life coach soon-to-be-ex Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), lesbian professor Martha (Cherry Jones) and her queasily pregnant partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and coked-up bag of nerves Tom (the ever-lovely Cillian Murphy) – are not the people to share it with: an icy coterie of self-centred, hypocritical, glib, intellectual meanies, who, through work connections or links from the past, somehow class each other as friends. Modern life is indeed rubbish.

Filmed entirely in very unflattering monochrome, as if deliberately to strip the characters of the colourful artifice they usually hide behind, The Party is both horribly familiar, a ruthless, clinical dissection of #middleclassproblems – think Mike Leigh let loose on the set of Downton Abbey – and like nothing I've ever seen before in the cinema. For starters, it's only about 70 minutes long – talk about leaving us wanting more!

It's also excruciatingly, darkly funny, in the way that only classic bourgeois British black comedy can be – think Fawlty Towers with sexting, burnt vol-au-vents and 'Dido's Lament' played at the worst possible moment. (Here, we do not like Demis Roussos.)

Brittle, witty and cruelly observant, brilliantly cast and acted, and poised with a perfect sting in the tail, The Party is a dramatic dinner party delight. Don't turn down your invitation...

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