Review of 'Gosford Park'

gosford_park.jpg In the 1930s a group of wealthy people meet at Gosford Park, a manor house, for a shooting weekend hosted by Sir William McCordle (Sir Michael Gambon) and his wife Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas). The guests include: Sylvia's sisters Louisa (Geraldine Somerville) and Lavinia ( Natasha Wightman), and their husbands Lord (Raymond) Stockbridge (Charles Dance) and Commander Anthony Meredith ( Tom Hollander); Sylvia's aunt Constance, Countess of Trentham (the wonderful Maggie Smith); the Honourable Freddie ( James Wilby) and Mabel Nesbitt (Claudie Blakley); talented actor Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam) and American film producer Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban) who spends much of the film on the phone; and a few latecomers: Lord Rupert Standish (Laurence Fox) and Jeremy Blond (Trent Ford). As the group arrives the housekeeper Mrs Wilson (Helen Mirren, playing true to type) assigns the accompanying servants to their rooms and is unimpressed with the awkward and disrespectful Robert Parks (Clive Owen), Lord Stockbridge's valet. Remember all that? Good, you will need to. Anyway, after the evening meal a knife goes missing then the next evening after the events of the shoot the knife is found…in the back of Sir William.

This films is billed as a comedy mystery – It is neither. The film is overlong with way too many unlikeable characters to keep track of and the “mystery” of the film is given very little prominence and treated fairly disdainfully by the story with the detective (played by the great Stephen Fry, though woefully underused and miscast) seemingly caring more for socializing than solving the crime. Indeed, the eventual reveal of the killer (or killers?) being given as more of an afterthought with no one particularly caring about it one way or the other, interested more in moaning about having to stay in the house while the investigation is underway. As for “comedy” I could find no evidence of this perhaps it is the chuckle at a place setting not being correct? Oh yes, hilarious.

Despite the absolutely amazing cast there is no one that particularly engages with our focus continually shifting from character to character to character, often with overlapping, confusing dialogue as the camera wanders randomly around the room. I think perhaps the issue here is that there are TOO many characters, TOO many big personalities that it becomes tedious and, frankly, boring. Even the event of the murder does little to focus the story with the antics of the cast continuing on…and on…and on.

I am fully aware that many will think this film as absolutely amazing (perhaps those that are avid watchers of period dramas like Downton Abbey) but, frankly, it is not my sort of thing. Boring and overlong. The only thing going for it are some truly incredible actors but, sadly, they are never really taken full advantage of and are lost in the melee.

Rating: “Not great, but not the worse”

Review Date: 2021-11-06

Directed by: Robert Altman

Studio: USA Films

Year: 2001

Length: 131 minutes

Genre: Melodrama