The Party is a star-studded affair, full of great actors, and yet somehow comes off more as a film-school project than a successful farce. Director Sally Potter usually has a gimmick embedded into her film projects such as in Yes, where the dialogue is spoken in iambic pentameter for no clear reason. Here she favors sloppy black and white camerawork to stage a one-act style play. It doesn't work despite a game cast.
The film is a scant 71 minutes and yet feels much longer. This may be due to the single location but I think it has far more to do with the hallow nature of the screenplay here. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Janet who is throwing a party with her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) to celebrate a recent promotion as a politician. Many guests arrive included April (Patricia Clarkson in the film's one fun performance), Tom (Cillian Murphy) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer). As the party is about to kickoff, a secret is revealed that throws Janet's world into disarray.
There is a shrillness to the dialogue that keeps the backstabbing and nastiness from being any fun. April is the one character who remains unfeathered by all the ludicrous twists and reveals. She calls it as she sees it, referring to the drugged-up Tom as a "wanker banker" at one point. She is the one person I felt a connection to and yet she is not the focus.
Instead Potter wants to balance the focus on the ensemble and as things get more and more manic, the film gets more enjoyable. Everyone here is fake to someone in their lives and by the end, all those illusions have been shattered. But where does this all lead to? Potter doesn't seem to know and the film ends without making much of a point.