The Party

Mar 11, 2018

A dramatic experience with humor and a good portion of social commentary. First rate.

The Party

Grade: A

Director: Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson)

Screenplay: Potter

Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient), Timothy Spall (Secrets and Lies)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1hr 11 min

by John DeSando

“The beautiful Marianne, queen of spin and that ridiculously handsome husband of hers. Too bad he's a wanker banker with a mysterious ability to make millions out of other's misfortune.” April (Patricia Clarkson)

The Party is about a Brit liberal party where the players have ambivalent roles like the beautiful Marianne who has disabled a marriage or two with her infidelity and her husband, Tom (Cillian Murphy), who, as the establishment capitalist, is not the hero of any of these proceedings. This film is a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in its intellectual badinage but not like it in its darkly humorous take on everything Brit from the healthcare system to its personal politics.

The dialogue is smart, e.g., “April, really. I am a professor. Specializing in domestic labour gender differentiation in American utopianism.” (Martha, played by Cherry Jones)The editing allows the audience to enjoy the actors’ personal genius with close-ups you couldn’t get in the theater between goodness and evil and the screwball comedies half a century or more before.

The Party is a smart dark comedy, which is neither too dark nor too comedic. It occupies a ground where dialogue, character, and reversal compete with each other to keep the proceedings taut and suspenseful while satirizing the weaknesses of contemporary society.

Whether politician Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) can hold onto her recent ministerial promotion is a running motif and appropriate for any time.  Writer/director Sally Potter, as she did in Orlando and The Tango Lesson, keeps it all amusing, enlightening, and contemporary (despite even a span of centuries in Orlando).

Nobody at the party is safe. Janet’s professorial husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), has suffered the neglect of a politician’s prominent spouse: “Look, if Dennis Thatcher and Prince Philip could trail behind their female leaders without complaint, then so can Bill” (April). Although the major conflict of the drama rests in that description of Bill’s dilemma, the screenplay and top actors make it universal to apply for all of us. Sympathy and humor apply in a most satisfactory experience.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at