THE PARTY — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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And now for something completely different: The Party, a tidily caustic 71-minute politically-charged dark comedy. It conveys both the tense horror of attending most American familial holiday gatherings these days and the vicious bite of Mike Nichol’s version of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, down to a book-stacked middle-class abode and the classic black and white cinematography. A fox that creeps by open patio doors functions as a predictor — much like its cousin in Antichrist – that chaos will soon reign. Continue reading…

Iconoclast British filmmaker Sally Potter, our hostess behind the scenes, serves up a compact arsenic-spiked punch that begins with a disheveled Kristen Scott Thomas, our London-based hostess, opening her front door and shakily pointing a gun at the camera. We next see her fully composed, merrily preparing to celebrate her win as a government health minister while fixing food and drink for guests who are soon to materialize — all the while surreptitiously chatting on her cell phone to an obvious undercover lover.

There is a delicious international buffet of actors on display, starting with Timothy Spall as Thomas’ shell-shocked spouse who has barricaded himself emotionally with wine and an eclectic array of vintage vinyl recordings, starting with the bluesy “I’m a Man.” First to walk in is best friend and steadfast cynic Patricia Clarkson, who gets all the best lines and delivers them with piquant panache, such as this one aimed at her German beau and touchy-feely life coach Bruno Ganz: “Tickle an aroma therapist and you find a fascist.”

Next up: Middle-aged feminist academic Cherry Jones and lesbian partner Emily Mortimer, pleased to announce they are going to have triplets. Last but not least is Cillian Murphy, a so-called “wanker banker” who arrives in a jittery sweat given the arsenal of cocaine in his system but without his wife. In quick measure, glass is broken, bodily fluids in the form of blood, barf and tears are shed, canapes are burnt and violence breaks out as Spall comes out of his stupor long enough to drop the first of several verbal bombshells.

Potter pulls off the neat trick of both making us feel for these individuals and their conflicting ideals as well as pity them as they hold fast to their beliefs yet not to the people they claim to care for. It is increasingly difficult of late to slot human beings into categories of heroes and villains, including in films, given the divisiveness in the air. Thank goodness a sharp observer like Potter exists to pull off such a tricky farce with such finely finessed brevity.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A Fantastic Woman is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.