The Party runs a mere 71 minutes, which should be a blessing in this age of bloated, two-and-a-half-hour blockbusters. But even that condensed runtime is too roomy for this sliver of a story that quickly outstays its welcome, not unlike the seven quirky, irritating party guests who make up the movie’s cast of characters.
Timothy Spall plays Bill, the husband of the party’s hostess, Janet, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. She’s in the kitchen, prepping the food and texting a secret lover, while he sits in the other room slurping wine, listening to his record collection, and staring into space. We’re meant to find their behavior intriguing, I think, but it isn’t. Janet and Bill are as boring as they sound, and by the time we find out what’s actually up with them, the movie has squandered any goodwill it might’ve earned based on the strength of its cast.
The guests arrive in groups of ones and twos, and none of them are interesting, either. Some of them—like Patricia Clarkson as Janet’s best friend April, and Cillian Murphy as the flop-sweaty, gun-carrying, coke-sniffing Tom—are outright obnoxious.
Writer/director Sally Potter seems to think that if her characters act erratically, they’ll draw us into their mystery. She might also think that by filming The Party in arty black-and-white, we won’t notice it’s essentially a stagey one-act play with painfully leaden dialogue. She is wrong about these things.
This is also the type of movie where its characters blurt out huge life announcements to their significant others while in front of friends and acquaintances. And I mean huge life announcements, like “I’m pregnant” and “I have cancer” and “I’m leaving you for someone else.” If there are actual parties like this, I pray I never get invited to one.