*** ½ (out of 4)
Sally Potter’s The Party is the latest addition to the illustrious subgenre of satire films that center around a bourgeois dinner party. In this particular instance, the bourgeois protagonists in question are seven members of the British elite, and they’re gathering to celebrate the fact that one of their number (named Jane, played by Kristin Scott Thomas) has just been appointed shadow health minister. When the movie opens, we watch as all the characters – Jane, her husband Bill (Timothy Spall), her best friend April (Patricia Clarkson), April’s partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a lesbian couple named Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and Martha (Cherry Jones), a banker named Tom (Cillian Murphy) – enter Jane’s living room in relatively good cheer. But luckily, we don’t have to wait long for an incident that’ll permanently shatter their happy façade: mere seconds after they deliver a toast to Jane, Bill abruptly announces that he’s terminally ill.
In her depiction of the chaos and conflict that emerge in the wake of Bill’s bombshell declaration, Potter primarily seeks to advance two larger themes.