The Party

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Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy, Timothy Spall and Kristin Scott Thomas get more than their just deserts in this dark comedy wrapped around a tragedy.

The single setting is a well-appointed London home on an auspicious night for hostess Janet (Scott Thomas), a career politician celebrating her promotion to shadow health minister. Ominously, her academic husband (Spall) appears to be in shock at the news, numbing himself with booze to a soundtrack of jazz and blues on crackly old-school vinyl. Among the guests at the party is April (Clarkson), a former idealist turned wisecracking cynic, accompanied by an unlikely partner in the shape of ageing New Age hippie Gottfried (Bruno Ganz).

Attractively shot in timeless monochrome, ‘The Party’ is indebted to a long tradition of dinner-party-from-hell classics including Mike Nichols’ ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, Luis Bunuel’s ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ and Thomas Vinterberg’s ‘Festen’. British director Sally Potter's chamber farce was filmed in just two weeks, which may help explain its adrenalized energy and lean running time.