The dinner scene has been used in plenty of films. Dinner for Schmucks, The Birdcage, Beetlejuice. It’s a great way to bring a majority of a story’s characters together and to discover more about them. In Miles Doleac‘s new film THE DINNER PARTY, we take a trope and make it the entire plot.
In THE DINNER PARTY, we meet Jeff (Mike Mayhall) and Haley Duncan (Alli Hart), a couple invited to dinner by wealthy aristocrats. Jeff is hoping to fund a play he has written for Broadway by impressing his acquaintances, but Haley seems skeptical from the very beginning.
After introducing every character, many of who are enigmatic, the majority of the second act takes place at the dinner table in a Quentin Tarantino-length conversational scene. We learn about operas, tarot cards, traumas, and good luck charms. This is where the film actually had me hooked. The amount of mystery surrounding everyone at the table along with the slow unraveling of information is my favorite part of this film because once we leave the conversation THE DINNER PARTY picks up extraordinarily fast. I won’t reveal much beyond letting you know the film visits a ton of horror film tropes, some to perfection, some to a bit of groaning from me. A scene with Carmine (Bill Sage) giving tv chef like instructions on how to cook while slicing up some meat is hauntingly comical and springs to mind when I think of the fun to be had in this film.
The third act of the film is fast-paced and the film’s nearly two-hour runtime doesn’t feel overly long, but THE DINNER PARTY leaves me lingering with a lot of questions. How did Jeff and Haley get invited to the party in the first place? Why would these people fund a play on Broadway? Are we even in New York? ….and the last five minutes of this film will leave you scratching your head.
Despite my confusion, I must say that this film is gorgeous. The set design is detailed, well lit, and feels cultured like the aristocrats we meet. The costuming to go along with these wealthy characters is also fantastic and makes me envious of whoever styled the actors. Speaking of, Lindsey Anne Williams, Sawandi Wilson, Miles Doleac, and Kamille McQuin round out the dinner party guests and they all bring killer performances to the table (pun intended).
THE DINNER PARTY has a strong start but doesn’t answer some of the questions I needed answered, and in fact, I left this film having more questions with a baffling last few moments. I’m a fan of when films have an open-ended, left to your interpretation type of ending, but I didn’t feel like this film wanted me to feel that way, nor did it ever seem like a film building to that type of ending. That doesn’t make it a bad film by any means and is definitely a great movie to stay in and watch while dressed up for an at-home date night. THE DINNER PARTY arrives in theaters and digital/DVD on June 9, 2020.
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