Film Review: THE PARTY (UK 2017) ***1/2

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The Party Poster

Janet hosts a party to celebrate her new promotion, but once the guests arrive it becomes clear that not everything is going to go down as smoothly as the red wine.


Sally Potter


Sally PotterWalter Donohue (story editor)


Writer/director Sally Potter stunned audiences with her debut feature ORLANDO, a hit with art-house audiences.  THE PARTY can be described as less art-house but Potter’s mark is still clearly noticeable.

Her characters in this farce all have strong political leaning, engage in same or opposite sex relationships and have deep personal conflicts.

The film opens with a door opening and Janet holding a gun nervously pointed at the visitor.  It is a black and white scene and the film returns to this scene at the end of the film.  This creates some anticipation for the audience.  The audience would se how Janet came to obtain the gun and also the reason she is pointing it at a guest.

The film shifts to the present where each character is introduced.  The lead character is Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), a politician for the opposition party, who has just been appointed a minister.  She is having a small celebration party at her house for her hard work done, supported by her husband, Bill (Timothy Spall). Invited are her friends April (Patricia Clarkson), with her estranged German partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a life coach and self-proclaimed spiritual healer, Women’s studies professor Martha (Cherry Jones), with her partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer), a cook, and Janet’s colleague and subordinate Marianne with husband Tom (Cillian Murphy), a banker.

As the guests arrive, Janet’s husband Bill sits in his chair, listening to music, staring vacantly, and drinking wine.  All invited guests arrive one by one except Marianne, who Tom says will arrive later. (The audience can guess that the guess the gun pointed to at the start of the film is Marianne.)

Janet has thrown a soiree from hell.  Bile and bitterness have never been portrayed in a film to be so endearing.  Instead of celebrating her success, she ends up as a magnet opening skeletons in the closet.  Director Potter keeps the black humour coming in terms of both dialogue and action set pieces (Tom running up a cold sweat ding cocaine; Bill being punched up a couple of times.)

Potter writes sharp and occasionally witty dialogue (Martha described for example by her daughter as a first class lesbian and a second class mother)  though some of the lines, particularly those on politics and feminism sound pretentious.  Example:  Janet described as “looking like a girl, thinking like a man… ministerial, in a 21st-century postmodern, post feminist sort of way”. Potter has assembled an excellent cast, the best performance coming from German actor Bruno Ganz matched by Patricia Clarkson playing his girlfriend who constantly puts him down.  Spall plays the serious role while Scott anchors down the story.  It is the performances that make the movie.

THE PARTY suffers from not bringing the proceedings to a closure.  But for an art-house audience open ended stories with no conclusions are accepted.  THE PARTY also moves at a hectic pace so that it all comes to an end too quickly.  This is a party the characters want to end quickly but the audience wishes to stretch on.


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Film Review: DARKEST HOUR (UK 2017) ***1/2

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Darkest Hour Poster

During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.


Joe Wright


Director Joe Wright returns to his period World War II roots of ATONEMENT with a theatrical historical drama set during the first year in office of Sir Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as Prime Minister of Britain. The United Kingdom was then on the brink of invasion by Adolf  Hitler’s Germany.  Wright covered in ATONEMENT the evacuation of troops form Dunkirk, France and in this film covers the same event but from another angle – the difficult planning and fight that championed it.  It is in many ways a more difficult endeavour as witnessed in this film, appropriately entitled DARKEST HOUR.

The film opens with the forced resignation of then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) less than a year into the war due to his incompetence.  Churchill is selected as his only viable replacement despite his controversial career (the most important being the loss thousands of men of men at the Gallipoli War).  With British resources dwindling, France having already fallen, and the U.S. not helping much at the time, a contingent led by Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane) pushes hard for peace talks with Hitler. 

There is much to enjoy in this feel-good, rouse up ones emotions war drama.  Wright provides Churchill a grand theatrical entrance as he is shown first in bed lighting his signature cigar.  The film even ends with his most famous speech in the House of Commons (We will fight in the streets, in the hills etc.)  Between them, Churchill is shown as a man, supported by his wife, who finally gets the courage to fight for his convictions.  His stately residence, the Parliament house, the cabinet rooms all form the mighty props in the grand venture.  The cinematography by Bruno Delbonneland with camerawork is superb, mainly of the interior rather than exterior.

Oldman’s performance of Churchill is magnificent.  Oldman, looking like Churchill, aided by Kazuhiro Tsuji’s great prosthetics and make-up, goes right into character rather than just impersonating the man.  This is an Oscar worthy performance.  Other performances are excellent all around with Kristin Scott Thomas making an impression with her little written role of Mrs. Churchill.

The chief complaint of the film is the manipulative segment of Churchill’s ride on the London Underground, where he speaks candidly to a number of tube riders on their view of entering the war.  He speaks to a too good to be true assortment of characters – a child, a black, a housewife, the working-class who all are able to voice their opinions (including the child and the black who can quote Shakespeare) too eloquently with the scene ending with Churchill crying into his handkerchief.

DARKEST HOUR is the second film this year with Churchill as the main character, the first one being Jonathan Teplitzky’s CHURCHILL starring Brian Cox.  Both films show two different sides Churchill took on the War – the first with Churchill against the Normandy Allied Invasion.  Both are worthy war dramas, both worth a look with DARKEST HOUR being the bigger more splashy production. 


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Happy Birthday: Kristin Scott Thomas

kristinscottthomas.jpgHappy Birthday actor Kristin Scott Thomas

Born: Kristin Ann Scott Thomas
May 24, 1960 in Redruth, Cornwall, England, UK

Married to: Dr. François Olivennes (1987 – 2005) (divorced) (3 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

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