The colourful personalities in The Party would make for better dinner guests than entertainment.
Fusing the bottle society-comedies and Whitehall farces emblematic of Stoppard’s early output to which this effort doesn’t quite hold a candle, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, Cillian Murphy and Timothy Spall make for a cast that would justifiably be the envy of almost any Director.
Here put to some use in the eponymous shindig that, as tradition would have it, includes a sly double meaning in so much of all the goings-on, including the title no less, while the filmic setting may allow for an extra dimension of drama traditionally prohibited in theatre, with some of the action playing out over text messages, a set of circumstances never as well thought out as The Party’s stylistic predecessors render the film less than endearing.
The crux of the plot, revealed randomly and awkwardly by Spall’s obstinate misanthrope, proceeds to unfurl in a manner primarily focused on the shock value of moments few and far between rather than the type of not uninteresting machinations you might typically expect would drive the gaggle to each and every confrontation. Conversations are short and perfunctory, the narrative never resting on anyone long enough to proffer a true sense of their character or motivations. Murphy’s coked-up man of finance’s antics, himself one of the film’s more redeeming aspects, are played mostly for slapstick value, never figuring so much in the plot as his humorous attempts to emulate Patrick Batemen could allow.
The denouement, if fairly hilarious and obfuscated throughout, never has so much impact as it could have if the film had invested greater time in more of its figures or even played beyond its brief 71-minute run-time. Produced in black-and-white, the bleak palette, together with the not infrequent leaps between fleeting happenstances, is more of a distraction than a contributing factor to a brief, serviceable pleasure.
The Party is screening at the Sydney Film Festival