Tuesday, 10 December 2019

THE PARTY'S JUST BEGINNING review


Following the suicide of her best friend, Liusaidh (Karen Gillan) strives to find comfort by pushing her lifestyle to its limits, hooking up with random strangers and drinking herself into oblivion. Haunted by the image of Ali's (Matthew Beard) death, she tries to come to terms with what happened by replaying the months leading up to his death in her mind.


Stuck in a depressing supermarket job behind the cheese counter and living with her exasperating mother and comatose father, Liusaidh looks for her own kind of solace and relief, usually from casual sexual encounters she has with strangers, followed by a chip supper on the way home. Her biggest step forward comes when answering her phone, often misdialled as a helpline number one digit away, she decides to start talking to an elderly gentleman about his problems and finds strength by supporting someone else; just as she hoped and failed to do for Ali.

The feature directorial debut of Karen Gillan, thematically The Party's Just Beginning shares a few elements with Phoebe Waller-Bridge's magnum opus Fleabag and Sophie Hyde's Animals (starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat), although there's very little in the way of fun or comic relief here to balance the tone. Whereas those "wayward" women lived their lives one night at the time, for Gillan's Liusaidh, you don't get the same feeling that, eventually, everything's going to be okay. There's very little in Liusaidh's life that isn't gloomy, so the optimistic appearance of Gillan's Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Lee Pace as one of her conquests offers some glimmer of hope.

It's a bold, brooding story for Gillan to deliver, and with her star very much on the rise in family friendly Hollywood fare like the Jumanji and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises, it's clearly a passion project she's needed to get out of her system. There's obviously a truth to this unflattering slice of life that can only be properly expressed by a native, with Gillan returning to her old hometown of Inverness for a film that isn't going to do much for tourism of the local area.

There's a slight dramatic disconnect in that it's Ali's story that has the weightier themes but is the secondary story behind Liusaidh's, with the structure a little jarring as we flit between present day and flashbacks to Liusaidh's time with Ali with reckless abandon. And it's not exactly the rollocking good time you might be expecting from the (ironic) title; less of a party and more of a "wake up in a bush" morning after hangover that ventures to some extremely dark (but very well-handled) areas towards the finale. Dark and depressing it may often be, but on the whole it's a solid performance by Gillan on both sides of the camera that shows the potential for bigger directorial projects to come.

Verdict
3/5

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