GOSFORD PARK (2001)

Director: Robert Altman

Writing credits: Robert Altman (idea), Bob Balaban (idea), Julian Fellowes (screenplay)

Starring: Ensemble cast.

Genre: Mystery/romance/suspense in jolly old England of 1932. (available in VHS and DVD)

Reviewed by Judith Fox

Robert Altman directs this unusual comedy/romance/suspense/mystery story with his usual flair, making a movie with a witty and, albeit sometimes, slow-moving plot. Any anglophile would be pleased with the setting and the collection of actors. I can't tell you how many times I sat forward to look closer to remember each actor's real name and character's name. This is a multi-plot lined story. British period movies, especially taking place in the beginning of the 20th Century, can be interesting particularly about the "going ons" of the rich. This one shows a kind of emptiness. Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), together with his wife, Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), invite a group of their peers for a shooting party at their estate in the country. The downstairs servants are required to bunk with the servants of the la-de-das for the weekend.

The upper and lower classes are portrayed probably more realistically than in the British Series, "Upstairs, Downstairs." In the latter story, I remember the upper class seemed much more concerned for their downstairs staff. In Gosford Park, the upper class is crass and selfish. They expect their servants to act as their slaves night and day. The cruel ways of the upper class characters did disgust me, swaying my anglophile likes just a little to the left. But never mind that... I went on to watch and pick out great actors and their characters, all British. What a roster! Such a jolly good cast. With such a list of characters, it's difficult to keep up. The shooting party begins the next day and the upper class have their sickening fun. The murder doesn't occur until halfway through the movie and, perhaps to some, would seem much too late. With a runtime of 2 1/4 hours, it is just too long and could have been cut, but I'll be darned if I know where. Here's a list of the actors: Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates, Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson and James Wilby.

I'm not going to tell you any more about the story, except to say you are shown a glimpse of how the upper crust and lower class lived. I must admit, I missed a lot of detail so this one is a definite must-see-again for me.

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Edcom: There is another review of this movie in our morgue. If you would like to read it, please click here.

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