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The Party, film review: ‘Enough vim and vigour to entertain’

PUBLISHED: 17:12 10 October 2017

TIMOTHY SPALL as BILL, CILLIAN MURPHY as TOM, EMILY MORTIMER as JINNY, and PATRICIA CLARKSON as  APRIL. Picture; Nicola Dove

TIMOTHY SPALL as BILL, CILLIAN MURPHY as TOM, EMILY MORTIMER as JINNY, and PATRICIA CLARKSON as APRIL. Picture; Nicola Dove

Nicola Dove © Adventure Pictures

Set in what looks to be a surprisingly dingy basement flat in north London, six ghastly middle class liberal intelligentsia characters (and a banker) bicker about how ghastly the middle class liberal intelligentsia (and bankers) are

Back in the 60s, The Party was a freewheeling Blake Edwards comedy with Peter Sellers doing his best Goodness-Gracious-Me Indian, causing chaos at a shindig in a state of the art house in the Hollywood Hills.

This remake has turned it into a black and white tragi-comedy set in what looks to be a surprisingly dingy basement flat in north London in which six ghastly middle class liberal intelligentsia characters (and a banker) bicker about how ghastly the middle class liberal intelligentsia (and bankers) are. It’s political correctness gone mad, isn’t it?

Potter’s film offers all the fun of the theatre, in black and white. It is the custom in the fearta for these kind of dos to involve cracks gradually appearing in the facade of polite society. In this film though there is no facade of polite society, just seven bitter figures spitting abuse and insults at each other from the off, which takes the fun out of it a bit.

Nobody here is afraid of Virginia Woolf; they wouldn’t wait for her to sit down before condemning her as a bourgeois sell out.

The film has enough vim and vigour to entertain but having gathered such a splendid cast, Potter’s script doesn’t really give them the material they deserve. When Patricia Clarkson comes in and immediately announces that her boyfriend (Bruno Ganz) is unbearable and she is getting rid of him, it really strips her character of any weight. She is just a functionary; there just to make cruel, cynical jibes.

These figures are little more than caricatures – Cillian Murphy’s banker comes along and goes straight to the loo to do a line of coke. And because there’s nothing much to them, then there isn’t much to all those supposedly cutting remarks that fly around.

But there is something very telling about getting such a preposterously talented cast to perform in such a modest surrounding, a single location shot in two weeks: it mirrors perhaps the gap between our national reality and our perception.

Go to halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of the Blu-ray release of Peter Seller’s 1968 comedy The Party, and the 30th anniversary re-release of Hellraiser.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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