The Party’s Just Beginning review: Karen Gillan’s directorial debut premieres at the Glasgow Film Festival.
The Party’s Just Beginning review by Awais Irfan.
Karen Gillan has become quite the household name in Hollywood, a part of the MCU and having most recently been seen in the box-office smash-hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. But, for her latest project, The Party’s Just Beginning, she steps behind the camera for the first time.
A year on from the suicide of her best friend Matthew (Matthew Beard), Luisaidh (Gillan) is still struggling with the loss. Her life has gone off the rails, she is unable to confide in anyone and spends her days and nights marooning in joyless sex and an obscene amount of drinking. However, the sliver of hope in her misery in the bitter Inverness winter comes in the form of Dale (Lee Pace), someone who Luisaidh can relate to and feel free with. But is it to last?
This is the big question that Gillan’s directorial debut asks, amongst many: how does someone so far removed from society find their way back? How does someone dealing with such vicious inner torment and guilt find redemption? And can it last? It’s quite audacious depths for a debut to head into and whilst The Party’s Just Beginning has its moments, it appears that Gillan has perhaps bitten off more than she could chew with this one because it’s a bit of a mess. And this is largely due to a screenplay that is never sure what it wants to be: one moment, it’s trying to be an offbeat comedy; the next, it’s trying to be a poignant drama; it wants to be a social commentary as well. There’s too much going on so, instead, it just feels too convoluted and frantic for its own good – not working on any front it aims towards, not the comedy or drama or commentary or relevance.
The film is also lacking any complex and emotionally rich characters; everyone just feels so one-dimensional here, due to such contrived writing bombarding them. When your film revolves around its characters and their inner turmoil, it’s not a good sign when we don’t care for anyone in the story. Yes, the film is commendable for its efforts in trying to depict important topics such as suicide, sexuality, alcohol abuse, acceptance of one another but it all just feels so shoehorned in. It’s almost as if these elements were thrown in for the sake of adding relevancy to the film but it means that the film lacks the authenticity to really ring true when focusing on these social themes. Sadly, this speaks for the film itself: ideas that lack execution. Gillan’s writing feels strained and too unsure of itself to stick the landing as it perhaps could have.
However, it’s not all bad. For starters, the performances are all very good. Karen Gillan herself has proven time and time again that is quite the talent in front of the camera and she displays some strong work here, as do the supporting cast – the scene-stealing Lee Pace is a highlight to watch, so full of life and energy in the bleakly conveyed Inverness. It’s also a gorgeously shot film; Edd Lukas’ cinematography is stunning to look at. The film also has its handful of enjoyable scenes, full of inventiveness and energy; sadly, they are too few and far between to really keep this film afloat. In the end, The Party’s Just Beginning is commendable for its efforts but it’s a film that tries to juggle too much and impresses too little to be anything more than forgettable and boring.
The Party’s Just Beginning review by Awais Irfan, February 2018.
The Party’s Just Beginning is awaiting a UK release.