At the end of the chamber dramedy “The Party,” you’ll be glad you were able to be a voyeur and not actually attend the get-together in person. It’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with more characters and twice the vitriol.
Kristin Scott Thomas is Janet, the newly appointed U.K. Health Minister and host of the party. When we first see her she’s holding a gun on a guest. It’s that kind of party.
Cue the flashback.
Gathered together are Janet’s nearest and dearest. There’s sharp-tongued best friend April (Patricia Clarkson), her almost ex and professional life coach Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), Martha (Cherry Jones) and her pregnant partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer), jumpy financial whiz Tom (Cillian Murphy), whose cocaine and aforementioned gun add some spice to an already edgy situation. On the periphery, for a time anyway, is Bill (Timothy Spall), a ticking time bomb with a glass of champagne.
Director Sally Potter wastes no time in presenting her sophisticated but sour soiree. The verbal—and text—fireworks begin almost immediately. Sparkling dialogue drips from the mouths of these actors like liquid gold. When Jinny announces she’s have more than baby Martha says, “Triplets. People. Small people.” It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but the magic is in the delivery. The best lines are reserved for Clarkson, whose blunt, plainspoken words add fuel to the already hot state of affairs. “Although it may have a deleterious effect on your career I think you could consider murder,” she purrs at one point.
Canapés smoulder, truths are revealed—there will be no spoilers here—and lives are shattered, all in just 71 minutes. “The Party” is a delightfully nasty piece of work, artfully realized by Potter and delivered with just the right amount of venom by a dedicated cast.