GFF 2018: The directorial debut of Karen Gillan is an unconvincing drama about the follies of youth
The star of family-orientated fare including Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy and the Jumanji reboot, Karen Gillan makes her feature debut as a writer-director already a household name. Unfortunately, her relentlessly crude creation The Party's Just Beginning, in which she also stars, is likely to alienate both her fans and casual viewers alike.
Lucy (Gillan) is a confused twentysomething working on the cheese counter at an Inverness supermarket. Carelessly entering into rough sex with strangers, smoking drugs and gulping down ecstasy, Lucy forges a reckless path forward, hoping her transgressions will hold at bay the ennui of middle-age, which she associates with her mother's Tupperware parties. Additional problems include a transgender friend with a heroin-addicted father, occasional hotel-room sex with an enigmatic partner, and halting phone conversations with a suicidal elderly man who has somehow mistaken her for a helpline worker; it's clear that Lucy has no shortage of issues.
The Party's Just Beginning has issues too. Gillan's previous collaboration with Scottish production company Synchronicity Films, Not Another Happy Ending, was an insufferably twee comedy, but The Party's Just Beginning goes way over-the-top in the other direction, offering a breathlessly lurid account of growing up in Inverness that's equally shrill and unconvincing. Even if the script was meant to demonstrate the muddled state of Lucy's mind, the narrative eventually collapses into a jumble of poorly-framed flashbacks, with any meaning obscure. Lucy's reaction to a potential rape in the latter stages also seems unaccountably flippant; there's no continuity in her development.
Films with a strong, complex female lead are still an all-too rare commodity worldwide, and Gillan presumably intended to produce the kind of observant rites-of-passage drama that Greta Gerwig pulled off so nimbly with Lady Bird. But, as a chronicle of youthful, drugged-up rebellion, The Party's Just Beginning never looks like getting started.
Screening on Sat 24 and Sun 25 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.