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The Dinner Party is a 2020 comedy murder mystery movie written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Olivia Colman, directed by Harry Bradbeer

It stars an ensemble comprising of Colman, Waller-Bridge, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Anthony Hopkins, Viola Davis, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Maya Rudolph, Maggie Smith, Jane Fonda, Jodie Comer, Morgan Freeman, Timothée Chalamet, Gary Oldman and Saoirse Ronan.

The entire cast plays heightened fictionalised versions of themselves with the exception of Judi Dench, who plays Olivia Colman's mother; Jodie Comer, who plays Phoebe Waller-Bridge's personal assistant, and Maya Rudolph, who plays Maggie Smith's nurse.

The film focuses on a group of actors who are all summoned to a manor house in the middle of the English countryside, only to end up trapped there. When their host, the actor Gary Oldman, turns up dead, it soon becomes apparent that one of them has a vendetta against the rest and wants them all dead.

The film was released on Netflix on February 7th to positive reviews.

Cast

  • Olivia Colman as herself, an Academy award-winning British actress.
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge as herself, a BAFTA award-winning British actress and writer.
  • Meryl Streep as herself, a 3-time Academy award-winning American actress.
  • Judi Dench as Mrs Colman, Olivia's mother.
  • Anthony Hopkins as himself, an Academy award-winning British actor and Sir.
  • Viola Davis as herself, an Academy award-winning American actress.
  • Anne Hathaway as herself, an Academy award-winning American actress.
  • Eddie Redmayne as himself, an Academy award-winning British actor.
  • Maya Rudolph as Anita, Maggie Smith's nurse.
  • Maggie Smith as herself, an Academy award-winning British actress and Dame.
  • Jane Fonda as herself, a 2-time Academy award-winning American actress.
  • Jodie Comer as Natalie, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's assistant.
  • Morgan Freeman as himself, an Academy award-winning American actor.
  • Timothée Chalamet as himself, an American actor.
  • Gary Oldman as himself, an Academy award-winning actor.
  • Saoirse Ronan as herself, an Irish actress.

Plot

Gary Oldman extends an invitation to several of Hollywood's most elite for an evening of fine dining and entertainment at his luxurious manor house in the middle of the English countryside, completely cut off from the outside world. Once all the guests have arrived, Oldman calls them to dinner and reveals they have all been summoned to his home for a very important reason, he wants them all to be involved in a special project he is creating. As he is about to go into detail about the project, the house plunges into darkness, and soon after a scream is heard. When power is restored and the lights return, Gary Oldman is slumped over with his face in his soup and a medieval dagger plunged into his back.

After an initial panic, Maggie Smith insists that everyone must calm down and that she's almost certain that Gary is pulling a prank on them all. When Anthony Hopkins goes to check, he confirms that Gary has no pulse, and delicately pulls the dagger out of his back using a tablecloth, the blood-soaked dagger confirms to the guests that Oldman is definitely dead, and given the short time the power was out, it had to be someone in the room.

The guests hurry out of the dining room and into the parlour, where they find a note from the housekeeper saying that the guests would have to cater themselves as Oldman had dismissed them all prior to dinner being served, and that the property was now empty. Again trying to logic with reason, Maggie Smith concludes that it must have been a disgruntled member of staff. She suggests that everyone breaks off into groups to search the house and apprehend the culprit. Everyone agrees and breaks off into groups, Maggie and her nurse are accompanied by Eddie Redmayne and Anne Hathaway, Olivia Colman and her mother pair up with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her assistant, Natalie, Jane Fonda teams up with Morgan Freeman, Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan, leaving Viola Davis with Anthony Hopkins, who decide to stay with Oldman's body to prevent anymore foul play.

While searching the first floor bedrooms, Timothée finds the charred remains of a script in the fireplace of Oldman's room. The only distinguishable word is "diabolical". As Eddie Redmayne and Anne Hathaway search through the servant's quarter, they hear a petrifying scream and hurry to the source, the foot of the grand staircase and are shocked to find Jane Fonda laying lifeless in the middle of the room, having clearly fallen several stories to her death. As Eddie and Anne look up in horror, they notice almost everyone is peering over the edges of their respective stories. Anthony Hopkins and Viola Davis come rushing in and Viola screams in horror. Anthony looks and Eddie and Anne and quips that at least they can rule out one another as murder suspects.

With Jane Fonda's body placed with Gary Oldman's in the parlour, Olivia Colman insists that they instead travel together as a pack. Meanwhile, outside a storm has begun and bolts of lightning flash through the windows. The group agree to continue searching the house as one big pack, and begin by assembling on the top floor, working their way down. Meryl Streep tells a story about Jane Fonda and how devastated the world will be when they learn of her death. Appalled by her ignorance, Eddie Redmayne asks about Gary Oldman's legacy too, Phoebe Waller-Bridge laughs and tells Eddie Redmayne that she isn't surprised he's dead, considering how many people have wished death on him only while she's been in the business alone. When the group reaches the balcony room of the top floor, lightning strikes again and causes another power cut, in the frenzy of panic a gunshot goes off, a scream is heard and someone falls to the floor while the gun is launched across the room. The lights flicker back on and Eddie Redmayne lays dead on the ground, a bullet wound on his forehead. Timothée examines the room and finds a gun, still smoking, under the bed. He lifts it up with a pen and reveals that the murderer has to be one of them in the room.

Frustrated and terrified, Olivia Colman locks the bedroom door and throws the key off the balcony, trapping them all in the room. Saoirse protests and claims they'll either starve or dehydrate before the killer comes forward. Phoebe's assistant Natalie reassures her by pulling several bottles of water and some cereal bars from her backpack. Olivia's mother insists that they must get some rest as the men shuffle Eddie's body onto the balcony. Phoebe decides to let everyone rest while she keeps guard and gets to work on writing about the events so far. She decides to take a smoke break on the balcony, and when silently confronted by an unknown figure, she is pushed to her death. Everyone hurries to see where Phoebe has gone, the killer successfully blending in with the shrinking group.

Fed up and horrified, Morgan Freeman bursts down the door and insists they all spend the night locked away in their own rooms with their own keys to prevent any more killings. The group sees this as a more rational solution and they do so. While settling for bed, Olivia sobs to her mother about Phoebe's death, and her mother comforts her. In another room, Meryl Streep tries to pass the time by reading her latest project's script. In the next room, Natalie sits crosslegged on the floor meditating, in the following room, Anthony Hopkins is talking to himself, trying to piece together the events of the night, Anne Hathaway is sound asleep in her bed, Timothée Chalamet is pacing the floor of his room, Saoirse Ronan lays in her bed staring at the ceiling in hers, and Morgan Freeman sits on his balcony and lights a cigarette, and notices that in a room a few doors down, a bag has just been thrown off the balcony. Viola Davis is brushing her hair and doing her nightly sleep rituals in her room. Anita is tending to Maggie in their room.

Hungry and thirsty, Timothée decides to knock on Saoirse's door and hunt for food with her, she agrees and they head down to the kitchens. Hearing the noise, Anita emerges from her room and as she peers over the landing, she is whacked over the head with a blunt instrument, the assailant then descends the stairs, following Timothée and Saoirse.

As Timothée and Saoirse raid the kitchen, they are blissfully unaware that the unknown killer is advancing on them. While Timothée is in the fridge, the killer slits Saoirse's throat with a Butcher's knife, before sealing the freezer closed, locking Timothée in the sub-zero room.

Yells echo through the house the next morning when Maggie Smith discovers Anita's body. Everybody quickly rushes to join her, Viola is quick to note that Timothée and Saoirse are not present despite only being a few doors away from the commotion. Maggie then reveals that Anita had left the room after hearing the pair whisper the night before, she had simply assumed Anita had just left her sleep in peace. Anne and Natalie quickly conclude that their pair may have gone for a midnight snack and the kitchens would be the best place to look.

Arriving in the kitchen, the group are horrified to discover Saoirse's body drained of blood. Anthony looks around for Timothée and notes his absense, suggesting that he may have been the killer all along and had simply fled during the night. Olivia dismisses this claim when she notices that there are several heavy-looking boxes blocking the freezer door. Anthony and Morgan move the boxes and open the freezer door, a blue Timothée falls out, frozen solid and dead. Shocked that the killer managed to strike again the previous night, the group assemble in the drawing room to decide what to do. The phone lines are cut off, their mobile phones have no signal and there doesn't seem to be a single vehicle on site. Maggie begins to get restless and insists she must go for a walk so that her legs do not tire. Morgan takes this as an opportunity to investigate the disposed-of bag and insists on accompanying her.

As they explore the gardens, Morgan confides in Maggie and tells her about the bag, they soon find it and the pair find a vital clue that may have solved the mystery, but before they can hurry back to the drawing room, another gunshot is heard.

Inside the house, Meryl is found slumped over a footstool, shot through the chest. She had been left in the room with Natalie, Olivia and Olivia's mother, who all look on in terror. Anthony and Viola had been making tea in the kitchen. Anne had been tending to the corpses upstairs. Everyone puzzled as no one is holding a gun, Maggie tells Morgan that it all finally made sense as she pulls a gun and attached to an egg timer out front behind a lamp on the mantlepiece, perfectly aimed at where Meryl was sitting. Maggie reveals that that seat had been where she had insisted on sitting the previous night, and was likely the next intended victim. Maggie invites everyone to sit down as she explains everyone's death, revealing that she herself was the final piece of the puzzle.

Maggie reveals that she, along with Gary, Jane, Eddie, Phoebe, Timothée and Saoirse had all been attached to star in a new movie entitled The Diabolical Project, but the project had stalled due to everyone being committed elsewhere, the reason Gary had brought them all to the manor was to reveal the project was to be revived, but with a new writer. Gary had burned the old script in his fireplace the night before their arrival and intended on casting all his actor guests in the new version. Maggie then revealed that the original writer was livid with the news, and was in fact in their presence. Maggie reveals, with Morgan's help, the packaging of an egg timer, a box of bullets, and two empty bottles of water and a cereal bar wrapper from the bag, along with a copy of the original script of The Diabolical Project. Maggie turns to Natalie and commends her on her acting skills despite being a writer, revealing her to in fact be Moira Monroe, the failed screenwriter. Natalie scoffs, initially dismissing the claim, but Olivia reaches over and pulls away Natalie's wig to reveal she has been an imposter this entire time. Enraged, Moira lunges for Maggie and attempts to strangle her, but Anne floors her and pins her down. Maggie reveals that Moira had discovered the news of the dinner weeks earlier, and had successfully got Phoebe's previous assistant fired in order to pose as a new assistant and join her on the trip incognito. Moira confirms this. Maggie then reveals that while everyone was getting ready for dinner, Moira tampered with the power cords and acquired a medieval dagger from the dining room wall, while also planting defamatory notes about Gary in the kitchen quarters to assure that the entire house's staff would be dismissed that evening, allowing her to carry out her murderous plan. Moira had killed everyone she had intended, except Maggie, as Moira hadn't anticipated that Maggie would be capable of a morning walk. Maggie then simply asks why Anita, to which Moira responds, "she was in the way". Moira says that she has no solid evidence it was her, and she will get away with her crimes in a court of law. Morgan laughs at this and pulls his phone out of his pocket, revealing that while there may be no signal, their voice memo app is still fully functional. Anne offers to go into the nearby village to fetch the police, and when they arrive Moira is taken away. The story becomes national news and Maggie and Morgan are hailed as heroes by their fellow survivors, and the world mourns the murdered celebrities.

In the closing moments of the film, it is revealed that none of the performers actually died, and Maggie had in fact hired them all for an immersive acting experience for her in order for her to rehearse for her upcoming performance as Miss Marple in a movie, they all took part as they had all owed Maggie a favour at some point in their careers, it is then revealed that Judi Dench had played herself playing the part of Olivia's mother, Maya Rudolph had played herself as Maggie's nurse and Jodie Comer had played herself as Natalie/Moira.

Production

Olivia Colman and Phoebe Waller-Bridge were speculated to have collaborated on a movie project in early 2019, Netflix then formally announced the project in April. Casting was also announced in April, with the complete ensemble being revealed in a clip from the script's readthrough. Filming commenced in Hertfordshire, England in June 2019 and lasted two months, fitting around each star's schedule as best as possible. In September 2019, Netflix confirmed the movie would be released on February 7th 2020, the Friday before the Academy awards.

Reception

The film was well received by both critics and audiences, and holds an 82% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with particular praise for Maggie Smith's role. It become the most watched film on Netflix in the months of February and March, and by the end of 2020, the most watched film of the year on the streaming service.

Sequel

A sequel was confirmed by Netflix in April 2020, entitled The Cruise Ship, the movie would feature a largely new ensemble and would not revolve around a murder mystery, but instead a serial burglar. It was confirmed in June 2020 that Colman and Waller-Bridge would return to write and star, with Harry Bradbeer returning to direct. It was also confirmed that new stars would include Anna Kendrick, Nicole Kidman, Angela Bassett, Michael Sheen, Daniel Kaluuya and Benedict Cumberbatch. The film is scheduled to begin filming in August 2020 and a mid-2021 release date is reportedly scheduled.

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