I think, with a little more time and a few more twists, The Party could’ve come together as a truly splendid chamber farce. The cast is there. Sally Potter is one of Britain’s more underrated filmmakers working today, and knows how to stage a smashingly good scene. The dripping venom and stinging barbs are all in order. What’s missing here is one more layer. It’s a cake just shy of being absolutely delicious because it’s missing the right topping. In my view, it could have gone further than infidelity. There could’ve been more betrayal. More drama. April (the cruellest month, as we know, and here the cruellest thinker) could’ve added to the sins of the lot, instead of sitting back and being the snarky Greek chorus. Gottfried could’ve given up all hope. Martha and Jinny could’ve, I don’t know, made more of a fuss about their incompatibility. And Tom could’ve simmered down a bit, since I’m not keen on Cillian Murphy’s overacting. It’s all a matter of creative decisions, and my feeling is, Potter didn’t always make the best ones. Thus, the escalations don’t feel as big as they ought to, and the bougie, self-satisfied sniping runs a predictable course. It’s incisive in a modest kind of way, but for my tastes, it’s not incisive enough. Maybe this is by design—maybe Potter’s sensibilities don’t run that black. Even so, surely she could’ve pushed the envelope just a little more?
Fans of theatrical absurdism that dips into the wells of existential philosophy will still find plenty to enjoy in The Party, and even if it’s still not your thing, how can you resist a film that has Kristin Scott Thomas in mental freefall, Cillian Murphy snorting cocaine like an animal in heat, and Patricia Clarkson shading a fellow party guest because she was on MasterChef? Even if the film doesn’t feel as complete as it should, you’ve got to admit that these are some scrumptious tidbits worth gobbling up all the same. Realists, idealists, materialists, fatalists: come one, come all. The main dish is being served, and it’s not going to go down easy.