Gosford Park (2001) (R)
It's hard to argue with success and "Gosford Park" is an example of just this. It's quite British and subject to much mockery and parody, and it's misrepresented. Yet the film saw its success, raking in awards for its screenplay and even scoring an Oscar nomination for Best Picture...with this, it's hard to argue.
But the film isn't so much drastically original as it is a copier of Agatha Christie type mysteries and a predated, cinematic version of the hit PBS show "Downton Abbey".
Yet "Gosford Park" does have its merits, the most obvious one being the huge cast that literally never ceases to amaze just in quantity and scope.
The film has a rather tried and true plot—a group of rich snobs and servants alike gather in one large house for the duration of a short vacation and whilst vacationing...someone gets murdered.
The cast of characters are limited to the snobbery of the wealthy and the resentment of the poor.
Immediately, what the film suffers from is an excess of characters. Yes, there may be a lot of great actors, but there are too many characters that we are supposed to know that it gets muddled right from the start.
Relatives and maids and friends all congregate in William McCordle's (Michael Gambon) house for a long weekend of drinking and hunting.
Of the men, only a few stick out such as an actor, a Hollywood producer (or director...who really knows?), and a valet whose accent is not above suspicion.
While all the characters clash together we get the normal twists and turns like several sexual interactions that spur lovers and deals for money.
To name all the characters would be a pointless activity because I couldn't keep all of them straight, and maybe this was the point of the movie—to force the viewer to keep up and all for naught.
"Gosford Park" is not a comedy...sure there are some fun moments, most of which coming from Maggie Smith's character, but it is decidedly not a comedy.
Set in 1932, the film plods along at a dull pace—it takes over half the movie just to introduce all the characters and give an inkling of any motive they might have for the murder that will happen later.
Regrettably, the film tricks itself into thinking that it's clever. The characters that it focuses on more than the others are naturally the ones that are going to end up in the interrogation room.
As far as mistreating actors, the film ranks pretty high...the most notable errors are the use of Stephen Fry and Tom Hollander who are both great in their own ways but don't get too much screen time.
The script manages to give snippets of a large number of conversations that occur within any given room at any given time. It cuts away to more chatting just as things start to get interesting, meaning that you gradually piece together a fractured picture in your head that sort of makes sense.
Like "Downton Abbey" you have the 'above stairs' prudes and the 'below stairs' servants. The valets and maids that travel with the lords and ladies are referred to by their bosses's names. Gossip thrives downstairs and makes its way upstairs gradually—working its way against gravity by using the lips of the maids.
The cast is star studded and here are just some of the larger names, excluding the aforementioned—Kristen Scott Thomas, Charles Dance, Natasha Wightman, Jeremy Northam, Bob Balaban, Ryan Phillippe, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Eileen Atkins, Emily Watson, and Derek Jacobi.
The film seems to center around Macdonald's character, Mary, who waits on Constance Trentham. She is the one who we always come back to for a point of reference.
"Gosford Park" is a little silly and a little dull. It's not quite Christie nor is it quite Monty Python though it could have achieved both. It's too long, too crowded, and too obtuse.
But for all its faults, I did have fun and it was surprisingly dramatic.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones