Timothy Spall gives a violence-inducing performance in this alleged comedyPICTUREHOUSE ENTERTAINMENT

The Party is a mirthless, stultifying, and abhorrently lazy production. Seven characters, varying from insufferable to utterly hateful, and none of them in any way convincing, spend just over an hour saying things neither funny nor insightful, and then it stops. It is screened in black and white, for no particular reason, and takes place entirely on the ground floor, as well as the modest garden, of an inner-suburban semi. The setting utterly fails to create a sense of intimacy or claustrophobia, instead seemingly testifying to a crippling lack of ambition.

“Spall pulls such a ludicrous hangdog grimace that I would gladly have punched him in the face”

The film contains many scabrous insults, which the writers clearly believed were hilarious when they spent the ten minutes or so it probably took to bash the script out, but these put-downs are entirely hollow when delivered on screen. The director, Sally Potter, seems to have been perfectly content to move on after the first take of every shot, regardless of how the lines had been delivered.

The editing is woeful. The film has no rhythm, no crescendos, no sostenutos, no sense of attack, and most definitely no surprises. Timothy Spall spends all his time on camera pulling such a ludicrous hangdog grimace that I would gladly have punched his character in the face even had he not been having an affair with my wife. Kristin Scott Thomas is required to display some emotions, not that anybody could possibly care, but struggles to pull them off anyway.


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Being kind to the rest of the cast would involve suggesting that their maddeningly ineffectual performances were the result of slapdash direction and pathetic post-production. Being less kind would involve implying that they were acting badly. My sense of generosity towards this film is sadly not sufficient for me to imply the former.

In the opening credits, the cast was listed in alphabetical order, and intriguingly, Kristin Scott Thomas was listed ahead of Timothy Spall. This got me wondering whether Helena Bonham Carter would be placed ahead of Gabriel Byrne in a similar listing. Or Philip Seymour Hoffman ahead of Billy Bob Thornton, or Jeffrey Dean Morgan ahead of Jackie Earle Haley. This mental exercise at least resulted in some amusement, to which The Party was an active impediment

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