review for Don's Party on AllMovie

Don's Party (1976)
by Michael Costello review

Bruce Beresford's adaptation of David Williamson's coruscating black comedy on the dashed political hopes of a group of thirtysomething friends is a sort of Australian Big Chill, albeit far more penetrating and honest. When Don Henderson (John Hargreaves), a partisan of Australia's Labor Party, invites some like-minded friends over to celebrate an anticipated victory in the national election of 1969, their mood turns ugly after their candidate's loss is announced. As the drinking continues apace, the men's thin veneer of civility also begins to wear away. Mack (Graham Kennedy) brandishes a naked photo of his recently divorced wife, while the others are intent on pursuing any woman not their spouse. More tellingly, the playful comic jabs exchanged by the men earlier in the evening give way to increasingly vicious personal attacks, as they gradually reveal the disillusionment of compromised lives, with the women equally disenchanted, if more ruefully amused by the childish behavior of their husbands. Resolutely unamused by her mate is the most grounded of these characters, Don's long-suffering wife, Kath (Jeanie Drynan), and one wonders if their marriage will survive the party. The playwright's take on the way in which personal goals are displaced into the political realm blends with a more universal vision of the sobering effect of aging in a film of lasting impact. Although its stage origins may be evident in the unity of time and place, Beresford's deft editing, Williamson's scathing dialogue, and an excellent cast are enough to efface these apparent limitations. While some of the slang will remain a mystery to non-Australians, a surprising number of the funnier and less subtle idioms can be inferred from context.