Sally Potter has always worked outside the box, casting a young Tilda Swinton as the gender-swapping lead in her take on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and challenging Joan Allen to speak in iambic pentameter in the undersung Yes. Though still thinking big, the filmmaker pares down her craft with The Party, a London-set comedy of (very bad) manners that, in a slim 71 minutes, packs in enough class-conscious wit and shredding one-liners for three great dramedies.
“I compared Sally to a World War II pilot,” says Cherry Jones (24, Transparent), who plays women’s studies professor Martha, the practical wife of young worrywart Jinny (Emily Mortimer), who’s pregnant with triplets. “There were 13 shooting days, and nothing was gonna get in Sally’s way.”
In this post-Brexit farce, rich in commentary on health care and feminism, Martha and Jinny are two of five guests at the home of rising politico Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) and fading academic Bill (Timothy Spall), whose parlor becomes a revelatory battleground for the flawed elite. “It was remarkable,” Jones says of the experience, which one day involved Thomas taking a nasty fall that left her needing stitches. “When it happened, Kristin, so intrepid, just leapt up and yelled, ‘Makeup!’”
Though inspired by the cast (which also includes Patricia Clarkson as Janet’s catty gal pal) and Potter’s relevant material, Jones is still amazed that she can be an out lesbian playing a lesbian. “Things have changed,” she says. “Our stories aren’t just being told. Today, we can tell them.”