Don's Party

Reviewed By Stephen Groenewegen
Posted 07/23/03 13:44:23

"Party politics"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Donís Party crackles with energy.

Set on Federal election night 1969, Bruce Beresford filmed entirely on location at a rented house in Westleigh, in northwestern Sydney. To make things more challenging, the film was shot almost entirely at night by cinematographer Don McAlpine. Beresfordís direction is inventive and masterly, and McAlpineís work looks terrific. They succeed in helping you forget this is an adaptation of a play.

The dozen or so actors make up a fine ensemble. The men are mostly lecherous, seeing the occasion not as an opportunity for political debate but for some adultery, egged on by the cocky and lascivious lawyer Cooley (Harold Hopkins). Of the others, Mack (Graham Kennedy) has just separated from his wife, the impressionable Don (John Hargreaves) still dotes on former professor Mal (Ray Barrett), Simon (Graeme Blundell) is the timid, pipe-smoking sole Liberal supporter (besides his wife) and the arrogant Evan (Kit Taylor) doesnít want to be there.

The women are less evocatively drawn. Kath (Jeanie Drynan), Donís wife, suffers because Drynan is a vacant performer, but Pat Bishop is terrific as Malís social-climbing wife Jenny, who longs to leave these people behind. Also memorable are Veronica Lang as Jody, giggly partner of Simon, whose physical attributes make her dissenting politics acceptable to the men, and Candy Raymond as a self-possessed artist (and wife of Evan).

Playwright David Williamson also penned the screenplay. Unlike his later plays, the characters donít stand around debating a particular issue. Politics is only discussed in passing - itís the crude and outdated sexual politics under Beresfordís spotlight. The subjects are marriage and fidelity, mateship and alcohol; how the latter strains the former.

But itís hard to see this night as the beginning of the end for these people, just another in a long line. Don and Mal particularly seem destined to a life of failed marriages and crumbling aspirations.

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