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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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Monmouth Arts Presents Sneak Peek Screening of “Never Look Away”
(RED BANK, NJ) -- See the movie before New York or Los Angeles! Monmouth Arts will provide another installation of its “Film Sneak Peek” series with Never Look Away, an epic tale of art and history spanning three turbulent decades of 20th-century Germany, on November 29 at Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank at 7:00pm. 
"The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music" Documentary To Be Screened In Long Branch
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- From the 1970s to today the Brighton Bar has been a live music venue and a staple of the New Jersey music scene.  On Wednesday, November 28th at 7:00pm, a free showing of The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music  - a documentary about the venue will be screened at The NJ Rep West End Arts Center.
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(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Big Dreams & Silver Screens, the organization responsible for the Westfield International Film Festival, is happy to announce their end-of-year celebration and fundraiser, “Of All the Gin Joints” on December 6 at the James Ward Mansion. The evening is a Casablanca-inspired party that will feature a pop-up gin bar, light bites by Feast Catering, live music by Tony Mowatt, and a screening of Casablanca.  Westfield native, Francesca Rizzo will also be screening a complementary independent noir short film, Sullivan’s Last Call – “a sexy little film about celibacy.”
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(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
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REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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