Conflicting fates collide in this dark psychological thriller from Canberra, Australia, when an unstable woman (Lara Cox) plots an evening to remember where the invited guests of her soiree are not guaranteed to leave the table alive. Tensions mount as the true nature of the gathering becomes frighteningly clear to those at the table, and what should have been a pleasant evening all round becomes a struggle to both understand and ultimately survive the ordeal.
I usually enjoy or look forward to films that are based on true stories. When they are done well, they can make an impact or impression. If done poorly they come off as tedious made for television fare that may have an interesting premise but fail to make any sort of impression. “The Dinner Party”, is not a bad film, in fact, it’s pretty decent, but not much really happens. What I really did enjoy though were some of the performances, especially that of lead actress Lara Cox, who’s portrayal of the unstable dinner host, Angela, was strong enough to warrant watching this first feature by writer director Scott Murden.
The beautiful yet slightly unstable Angela (Lara Cox) has planned a dinner party for her and her boyfriend Joel’s (Ben Seton) friends. Her plan is to kill Joel and to kill herself. The friends all suspect that she is up to something, her girlfriend even knows exactly what is going to happen but thinks he knows what is about to happen and is going obvious. It becomes clear that he doesn’t know and everyone begins to wrestle with their conscious and need to decide what to do. The film is told in flashback through police interrogations and the truth of the evening becomes revealed.
The films premise is simple. Too simple in fact and nothing really happens. That’s why, at times, the film was hard to sit through. Since we wait for the excitement to build, it just doesn’t. There is no mystery, no suspense, no thrills, just plays out as we suspect then it is over. The flashback device was pointless and just plain unnecessary. It served no real purpose other than to take away from the narrative that, in my opinion, would have been better told without any gimmicks and been straight forward. I’m not sure if it was just my review copy or a technical issue at the filmmaking level but the sound was horrible. Every sounded muffled and garbled which made it incredibly hard to understand what was being said most of the time.
Though the script was in need of some serious re-working, the film did manage to bring together a fine group of young actors that are at times fun to watch. Especially that of Lara Cox, who plays unstable by being human. She never goes too far over the top and to me gave a genuine performance that felt real. The rest of the cast did solid work as well which may be the only real reason to watch this film since some of them may end up going on to bigger and better things. There is an interesting subplot with Joel’s brother and ex-girlfriend who are both concerned for him and want him to leave Angela. I liked what was going on there but there just wasn’t enough there to make it worthwhile or caused some sort of larger impact during the climax that was so lackluster that I wanted to scream.
“The Dinner Party” doesn’t suck, it’s decent entertainment. My main gripe was the sound issue that drove me absolutely nuts. And that may have seriously drawn away from me enjoying the film itself a little bit. That doesn’t make it much better, though I really would like to recommend this film. It isn’t for everyone, not because it was gory or anything, just that it is a very slow film with next to no action or surprises to speak of. I do think I may look in to the real incident that inspired the film. Just wondering if it ended up being more interesting than what we see on the screen. Hopefully Scott Murden was just making some freshmen mistake and learns from them. If his career is to move beyond being “just OK”, he will need improve upon his screen writing skills and learn to build character and suspense, which is sorely missing from this so-called thriller.
The Dinner Party (2009)