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REVIEW: "The Party"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 01/23/2018

REVIEW: "The Party"

What must those modern cinemagoers who cry “SPOILER!” whenever a critic mentions the most innocuous of plot details make of movies like Sunset BoulevardCitizen Kane or Carlito’s Way, which not only open in media res, but reveal the ultimate fate of their protagonists? I’m forced to admit myself that in the case of the aforementioned Brian de Palma gangster epic, it does seem a little pointless, and sucks much of the tension out of the film’s otherwise expertly crafted climax.

Sally Potter’s latest, The Party, offers a very clever twist on the whole ‘in media res’ device, opening as it does with the reveal that its main character, Kristin Scott Thomas’s Janet, will pull a gun on someone at some point. We see her aiming the weapon at the camera, representing the point of view of her target, and as such we’re kept in the dark as to whom the object of her anger really is. 

Like an Agatha Christie drawing room thriller in reverse (not a whodunit but a whogetsit), Janet’s potential victims gather at her London home to celebrate the news that she’s just been made health secretary of an unnamed British political party (*Cough* Labour). Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) has had a bit too much bubbly and seems to be in a world of his own, losing himself in his collection of jazz records. Lesbian couple Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and Martha (Cherry Jones) are celebrating their own good fortune, having just learned that the former is pregnant with triplets. Cynical American April (Patricia Clarkson) is bickering with her oddball German life coach husband Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). Meanwhile, Irish banker Tom (Cillian Murphy) is sweating profusely with a pistol hidden on his person.

REVIEW: "The Party"

The celebrations are cut short when Bill comes out of his stupor to break the news that he’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The initial sympathy soon gives way to bickering as the members of the group argue the merits of western medicine, whether Janet should resign from her political duties to care for her husband, and whether Bill crossed an ethical line by seeing a private doctor rather than availing of the NHS his wife has campaigned so hard to represent. Things take an even darker turn when Bill makes a second announcement.

Shot in stark black and white by Russian cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov, Potter’s film highlights every wrinkle on the increasingly furrowed brows of her players. She’s assembled a cast of the sort of faces that silvery monochrome brings out the best in, and her film’s many close-ups resemble a celebrity photographer’s coffee table book come to life. There’s nothing showy about her direction, but Potter keeps things lively enough to rebuke any fears that her ensemble drama might resemble a filmed play.



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Potter’s dialogue however doesn’t quite exploit the talent she’s assembled, with only Clarkson’s cynic delivering lines you might recall a few hours after the movie ends. The strength of the script lies in its structure, and the minor magic trick Potter pulls in slyly deflecting our attention to deliver a humdinger of a final twist.

At 71 minutes, The Party barely qualifies as a feature film (indeed it’s nine minutes too short to be recognised as such by the Screen Actors’ Guild), and in decades past it may have debuted as a ‘Play for Today’ on UK TV in an era before baking competitions captured the British public’s imagination. Any longer and the lack of substance in Potter’s drama might start to show, but the brevity gives it an anecdotal quality, and it doesn’t make you wait too long for its punchline to knock you out.

3 1/2 Stars Out of 5

Directed by: Sally Potter; Starring:  Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy





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2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.
JCTC FILM Premiers DEKA-LOG, New Series Depicting Contemporary Urban Life
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- A new anthology web-series by an up and coming, Jersey City-based filmmaker, premiers at Merseles Studios on August 23rd when Jersey City Theater Center presents DEKA-LOG: a Finding Me story.  Doors are at 6:30pm, screening at 7:00pm.  Admission is $10.
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
​​​​​​​Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center To Hold Free Screening of "MILK"
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center will present a free screening of MILK (2015) on Wednesday, August 29th at 10:30am at Montclair Film’s Cinema505. The screening, presented in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, seeks to educate and promote breastfeeding among nursing and expecting mothers.


Newark Black Film Festival
​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.
REVIEW: "Skyscraper"
Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.
REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.
REVIEW: "When I Sing"
Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.
REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.






Event calendar
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2018


MUSIC

New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera Chorus Auditions @ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Emerson - 6:30pm

Allah-Las @ Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

CIRCLES AROUND THE SUN @ The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

STASIS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Victor Wainwright & The Train @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


THEATRE

Saturday Night Fever @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 8:00pm

The Lion In Winter @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 8:00pm

Shakespeare in the Park' Twelfth Night & Macbeth @ Englewood Library, Englewood - 6:30pm







FILM

The Greatest Showman @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

FREE SUMMER MOVIE: COCO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 10:30am and 7:30pm

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