Don’s Party (1976)

BRUCE BERESFORD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

, 1976. , . Screenplay by , based on his play. Cinematography by . Produced by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

It’s the night of the 1969 parliamentary election in Australia, and the possible Labor Party victory over the incumbent Liberal-County coalition (the country’s conservative party) is exciting people enough to inspire Don and Kath to throw a party for their friends to watch the results on television together in their living room. The food is put out on the table and the booze is piled high in the kitchen as a series of couples arrive, among them Don’s university professor friend Mal and his embittered wife Jenny, the sex-obsessed ladies’ man Cooley and his latest teenage conquest Susan, dentist Evan and his glamorously beautiful artist wife Kerry, the newly single Mack who has just split with his wife, and even two Liberal party supporters, Simon and Jody. Political discussions fall by the wayside as alcohol is freely imbibed and personal desires and conflicts come out: men hit on other mens’ wives, sometimes with success but always with a disastrous conclusion as lofty ideas of working out issues and concerns with society give way to more primitive, almost bestial insecurities surrounding sex, masculinity and relationships.  Kerry, in her gorgeous gown and with her mysterious air, becomes the central focal point as the boys become more competitive, and she has no problem fanning the flames of this attention because it helps her vindictive campaign against her husband; meanwhile Kath is distraught over the lessening stages of maturity that the group are falling into and the particularly dismissive treatment it brings out in her husband.  It’s not necessary to understand the ins and outs of Australian politics to appreciate the humorous tone that director Bruce Beresford and screenwriter David Williamson, adapting his own hit play, are applying to the fragility of the human ego, and even its taking place among a generation struggling to grapple with the popularity of free love isn’t something that will alienate modern audiences. Beresford never lets it feel too much like you’re watching a filmed play despite its taking place almost entire in the one house, wisely relying on the charisma and skill of a world-class cast of actors who keep everything afloat from beginning to end. and are terrific as the hosts, while steals scenes as Kerry.

Berlin Film Festival: In Competition 1977

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