Love makes hypocrites of us all
Directed by: Sally Potter
Written by: Sally Potter, Walter Donohue
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson
Swift shot: I was excited to see The Party, as it co-stars one of my favorite actresses, Patricia Clarkson. In fact, she was the first celebrity I ever interviewed. You can hear that bumbling mess here, for a laugh. But that might be all the laughing you do, unless your sense of humor is absolutely desiccant.
The Party is not so much about the physical gathering of friends, or what must pass for friends in Britain, as it is actually a treatise on the hypocrisy of party politics when love and passion take control.
Janet (Thomas) has just been promoted to a high ranking government office in England, and naturally she invites the people who supported her and encouraged her to help her celebrate her good fortune. But as the story unfolds, everyone is ultimately revealed to be living different lies, all surrounding different aspects of love. Oh, but this is not a love story, it’s about how foolish we behave trying to convince others we aren’t just base creatures terrified of our actions as we mask those emotions and call it love.
Janet’s husband, Bill (Spall) is basically sitting throughout the first act in shock, his expression is perfect as we learn more about some secrets that he is keeping. He’s been holding back for the sake of the party, and to assure that Janet gets her promotion.
Janet’s one purest friend is April (Clarkson) who has no filter. If she has a thought, you will hear it, and she is the stalwart friend who constantly has to remind all the other guests that they are here for Janet, not to steal her thunder with their announcements. Fittingly, April has no grand announcements of her own, but she’s clearly living a lie about who she is.
One of Janet’s other friends, Martha (Cherry Jones) is a militant lesbian who has been with her much younger and more attractive girlfriend, Jinny (Emily Mortimer) long enough to apparently conceive forthcoming triplets.
But the two most interesting guests of The Party are Tom (Cillian Murphy) and Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). Tom brings cocaine and a pistol to the party, which certainly helped keep me entertained, and Gottfried is this weird German holistic healer who believes Western medicine is a scam. He is with April, but April treats him like utter crap, which is part of the humor in this film.
The true humor of The Party is how everyone deals with the many layered revelations that hijack Janet’s good feelings and, not ironically, the party, which must be assumed to be the British Labour Party.
As I always say, I have only one real rule when watching a film, I must be engaged and entertained. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how entertaining this film was, for all its quirks and oddities, watching as a Yank. I was worried many of the references and jokes would be outside my limited American knowledge, but there are timeless themes that need no “translation.”
I can’t say a lot of my friends will like this film, but more refined fans will certainly appreciate the nuanced lunacy of watching all these characters fall apart in real time. I found out the film was shot in black-and-white so that the actors couldn’t hide from their performances. An interesting way of looking at it, I suppose. And it did give it that more official feel, as you really must focus on the action on screen and not be dazzled by any flashy bits.
On a personal note, I got a kick out of watching Wormtail (Spall) and Hitler (Ganz) in one scene that was just so over the top ridiculous that it dawned on me there needs to be a “Hitler reacts video” for The Party. I think it would be bloody brilliant! And Ganz definitely delivers the funniest line in the whole film, which I will not spoil here.
If British commentary pieces on hypocrisy of failed politicians is your thing, The Party is your cup of tea, and you should definitely give it a go. And to my conservative readers, you will enjoy watching these “perfect liberals” devolve into despair, all for your amusement . . . albeit via incredibly wry and dry humor.