Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Janet, whose recent appointment as shadow minister for health is the cause for the titular celebration. Unfortunately, Janet and her friends are way too unpleasant a group with which to party. Janet’s long-suffering husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), is DJing the record player far too diligently; April (Patricia Clarkson) takes “bitter pill” way too literally; her significant other, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), is a platitude-spewing German life coach; same-sex May-December couple Jinny and Martha (Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones) might have more than one life-changing announcement to make; and cokehead banker Tom (Cillian Murphy) brought a gun, but not his wife.
An appealing cast at the top of its game tries to conceal the ugly faults of their characters with model performances, but every line of dialogue is buried under 6 feet of subtext. Writer-director Sally Potter (Orlando) hits her bloated, obvious targets with ease, but her overprivileged, elitist implements are way too unpleasant. Fortunately, the party moves swiftly and barely lasts over an hour (71 minutes, to be exact, and its credits are surprisingly lengthy). The film fleetingly entertains when it deploys its caustic wit intelligently rather than obviously; disappointingly, these partygoers’ reveals are more predestined than authentic.
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