The Party is a spiky, nasty and very funny movie set during a momentous election

Sally Potter’s first full-on comedy captures the terror of rugs being pulled out from beneath everyone

THE PARTY (Sally Potter). 71 minutes. Opens Friday (March 2). See listing. Rating: NNNN

The Party is the first full-on comedy from writer/director Sally Potter, the wild talent who gave us Orlando, The Tango Lesson, Yes and Ginger & Rosa, but you’d never know it. 

Running barely over an hour and unfolding in real time, The Party is like throwing back a shot of espresso after a bottle of red wine: your system isn’t shocked, exactly, but you’re acutely aware of everything that’s happening around you, and your heart won’t stop bouncing off your rib cage. 

Shot in black-and-white and set in a single location – a townhouse in central London where an election-day celebration is shattered by a series of ill-timed revelations – it’s a spiky, nasty, very funny chamber piece.

Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has invited a few friends over to celebrate a career-making victory, only to be derailed by her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) announcing that he’s terminally ill – and he’s decided to spend his remaining time with another woman.

That’s just the first of maybe half a dozen shoes that drop over this spare, speedy comedy, in which writer/director Potter delights in the comic potential inherent in throwing together Patricia Clarkson as a steely political operator, Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer as a newly pregnant couple, Cillian Murphy as a coked-up agent of chaos and Bruno Ganz as a beatific wellness counsellor. 

Shot in 2016, apparently between the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, it captures the terror of rugs being pulled out from underneath literally everyone. Fortunately, Potter wants us to laugh at that moment of free-fall instead of choking on the panic of a world going mad. 

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