The Party

A great director keeps things lo-fi.

Possibly still best-known on these shores for 1992’s Orlando, Sally Potter has one of those careers that makes you wish she were able to make more than a couple films per decade. Her latest suggests she may have found a way to increase her output: Keep the films small, lean, and mean. The Party is all three of those things, featuring a small cast and set in a single location. Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband Bill (Timothy Spall), the latter of whom is depressed to the point of near-catatonia, are throwing a dinner to celebrate Janet becoming the Shadow Minister of Health for her political party.

Their guests include her friend April (Patricia Clarkson) and her super-crunchy boyfriend Gottfried (Bruno Ganz at his most beatific since Wings of Desire), Bill’s colleague Martha (Cherry Jones) and her pregnant partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer), and investment banker Tom (Cillian Murphy). Tom is a nervous wreck who brings both cocaine and Chekhov’s gun to the party — a gun we know will go off, because the film is told in flashback after Janet pulls the trigger. Unlike the week’s other gabfest, Have a Nice Day, The Party never drags, instead reveling in a strong cast that’s well-directed. Sometimes the greatest pleasures are the simplest. 

Rated R.
Opens Friday at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and the AMC Dine-In Kabuki.

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