A celebration runs amok in ‘The Party’

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It’s “The Party” time this week at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. The black comedy, shot in crisp black and white, is set in London, with a number of well-known actors playing the partiers. Sally Potter also directed the twice-Oscar-nominated “Orlando,” about a man who forever stays young as both woman and man.

Janet, played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Oscar winner for “The English Patient”), has just been appointed Minister of Health, and hosts a party to celebrate. Each of the celebrators has a secret to hide or a surprise to share with the others. Janet’s bug-eyed husband Bill is played by Timothy Spall (from the “Harry Potter” films). When he isn’t sitting half-comatose, Bill plays rock ’n’ roll songs like “What Is This Thing Called Love” on his stereo.

First to arrive is Janet’s acid-tongued friend April, played by Patricia Clarkson (Jane in “House of Cards” and Tammy One in “Parks and Recreation”). April comes with her about-to-be-dumped partner Gottfried, played by Bruno Ganz (“The Reader,” which won an Oscar for Kate Winslet). While April tends toward nastiness, Gottfried, a New Age life coach, is a gentler soul.

A lesbian couple, Martha and Jinny, show up next. Martha, played by Cherry Jones (an Emmy winner for her role in “24”), is the older of the two. Jinny, played by Emily Mortimer (Karin in “Lars and the Real Girl), is newly pregnant with twins. Last but not least comes financier Tom, played by Cillian Murphy (Jim in “28 Days Later”). Tom is a gun-toting cokehead, waiting for his wife Marianne to arrive. The creds of the actors matter, because this is a character-driven film. It resembles other party-based films like “Beatriz at Dinner.” The action depends on the conversations among the seven party attendees, and the film’s hermetic space echoes a theatrical production.

An anxious Tom tosses his pistol in a dumpster outside the house and heads to the bathroom to snort more cocaine. Then he splashes water on his face. (Does anyone do that except in the movies?) Janet retrieves phone calls and texts from a mysterious boyfriend, while she cooks the meal for the party. Bill announces that he’s not well and, in fact, has terminal cancer. A distressed Janet says she’ll quit her new post and take care of Bill, while Gottfried assures Bill he can heal himself.

One surprise reaction or argument after another continues to occur, as the party unravels amid political debates, infidelities, and an unexpected outcome.

 

Special screening of ‘Human Flow’

The Film Center will sponsor a special screening of “Human Flow” on Sunday, March 25, in collaboration with the M.V. Peace Council, MV Friends, and MV’s summer camp Sense of Wonder Creations. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s documentary examines the worldwide refugee crisis. State Representative Dylan Fernandez will attend and comment.

 

Information and tickets for “The Party” and other Film Center offerings or special events are available at mvfilmsociety.com.