The Party 03.12.17
It finished so abruptly, there was hardly time for disappointment. The Party is a film that imagines what a soiree in London looks like. With the dialogue slightly dull, I stopped thinking about the minimal plot and wondered how much these characters would earn: Kristin Scott-Thomas's House of Commons Minister would have a salary in the £100,000s, and given the London setting, perhaps the senior academic lecturers, played by Timothy Spall and Cherry Jones, would get close to that as well. Then there's Cillian Murphy's slickly dressed, hotshot city trader, snorting his cocaine: £100,000s too? Perhaps more?
I'm thinking of their salaries because there's little else to do about this film. The dialogue is anti-climatically poor and for the first time perhaps ever, I yearned for Quentin Tarantino. For The Party is a film about high-flying intellectual types who can't muster an intellectual or topical thought between them, who in fact have no views and make no reference at all to current events in a post-Brexit, Trumpian world. Like: really? Dragged out is Spall's atheistic character – having learned he's dying of cancer – mumbling bland thoughts on a cosmic factor, with a trippy German guy played by Bruno Ganz trying to encourage him. How I wished Ganz had had a bit more anger, like in his famously memed performance as Adolf Hitler in Downfall (2005). Here he's supposed to be the comic relief, with his spacy aphorisms, but like the rest of the film, it never goes anywhere. Similarly Patricia Clarkson's elegant, sassy best friend of the main character utters her lack of faith in democracy, but never goes beyond this. So effectively we have archetypes: the female politician, her cynic friend and washed-up husband, the cocaine snorting city trader, and a wacky, spaced out German. Throw in a lesbian couple and you've got the caricatured imagining of a London soiree setting and their conversation, as you'd imagine it in a dream, without the depth, or alternatively, constructed by aliens at a shallow level who beep in Martian to each other: this is probably what upper-middle-class, late-middle-age Blairite Londoners look like, if placed within a vacuum without reference to an outside world. Perhaps this is the danger of depicting people in a timeless fashion, similar to soap operas, with no reference to news or current affairs: it just looks weirdly plastic, a Madame Tussaud's of a dramatization.As I watched this film, my mind drifted to political satires by Armando Ianucci – Death of Stalin; VEEP; The Thick of It – about political spheres where people only seem to care about themselves and are cut off from the disempowered. The Party is not a million miles from this depiction, only less savage, about a slightly jaded, wealthy middle-aged set, the I-Just-Don't-Get-It crowd who don't understand the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn. But then, I don't understand the appeal of this film; it has a strong cast, is edgily portrayed in black and white, but as a work of art, never goes beyond first base.