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Gosford Park

Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Maggie Smith
Director: Robert Altman
Genre: Comedy
Year: 2001
Rating: 3 / 5

Reviewed by Guest Scribe Legend

After viewing this movie, I was a bit mystified. First of all, the ensemble cast is so incredibly large that it is difficult to keep track of everybody's subplot. As it turns out, almost everybody's subplot is not important - it's just added for flavor and setup. Gosford Park is a film about a hunting party gathering at a hoity-toity English country home. There are a slew of highbrow landowners, wealthy people, famous people and pretenders. And they each came with their own personal entourage of servants, who must join the "below stairs" staff in the servants' quarters.

The film flits from subplot to subplot, honing in on small groups of characters at a time before zipping off to another scene. There are so many characters that it is very difficult to keep track of everyone and what their sordid little secret is. Here is some help, though, so if you have not seen this movie yet you might have half a clue.

There's Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his wife, Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), who are the hosts of this party. He sexually exploits women in his factories and she is shockingly younger, married for money, and bored. She quite hates her husband, and - tsk, tsk - even cut cards with her sister, Louisa Stockbridge (Geraldine Somerville) for dibs on marrying William. Then there's Lousia's husband Raymond (Charles Dance), Sylvia's other sister Lavinia Meredith (Natasha Wightman) and her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Meredith (Tom Hollander). The point of these last few characters still escapes me. The McCordles' painfully awkward daughter Isobel (Camilla Rutherford) is also on hand, with her suitor Rupert Standish (Laurence Fox) and his friend Jeremy Blond (Trent Ford) who, if I am not mistaken, is engaged in sexual liaisons with one of the kitchen maids.

There are still more notable characters. There is Countess Constance of Trenham (Maggie Smith), Sylvia's aunt who steals most of her scenes with her witty condescension and verbal snap. Freddie Nesbitt (James Wilby) is on hand with his plebian wife, Mabel (Claudie Blakely), whom he married for her father's money, which turned to out to be far less than he expected. Now he's just embarrassed of her. And, finally, a trio from show business: the actor and singer Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), Hollywood producer Morris Weisman (Bob Balaban) and Weisman's so-called valet, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipe).

Confused yet? There's also a ton of "below stairs" characters, most of which play into the story as well. The most salient are the cook, Ms. Croft (Eileen Atkins), the head housekeeper Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren), the head housemaid Elsie (Emily Watson), the butler Jennings (Alan Bates), Stockbridge's valet Robert Parks (Clive Owen), and Constance's maid Mary (Kelly Macdonald). Phew!

If you're wondering who the main character of the movie is, it is Mary, who is the focus of the film if there is one, and the gumshoe who goes about solving the murder mystery. She's the only one who seems to care. The detectives might, but they are not competent enough to piece anything together, the relatives of the deceased certainly don't care, and most of the "below stairs" staff don't care either. Since virtually no one cares, there is not much reason to care about the victim. Unfortunately, it takes an incredibly long time to actually get to the murder, and the ambivalence towards the murder takes the steam out of the mystery element.

Gosford Park is interesting insofar as there are plenty of interesting stories going on, both above and below stairs. And it is seems to be very faithful to the lifestyle of gentry and servants in 1930s England. However, it is far too difficult to follow all the subplots and to simply match all the names to the faces of the characters. Even more disappointing is that many of the subplots have no bearing on the locus on the main plot thread.

Cast:

Kelly MacDonald..........Mary Macreachran
Maggie Smith..........Constance
Helen Mirren..........Mrs. Wilson
Clive Owen..........Robert Parks

Certification: Rated R for language.
Running Time: 137 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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