Release year: 2001
Director: Robert Altman
Screenwriter: Robert Altman, Julian Fellowes, Bob Balaban
Starring: Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Camilla Rutherford, Charles Dance
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Best Original Screenplay. 6 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Helen Mirren), Best Supporting Actress (Maggie Smith), Best Director, Best Art/Set Direction, Best Costume Design. 1 Golden Globe: Best Director.
Set at an English country house in 1932, we follow multible storylines both upstairs and downstairs, which are brought together by a murder.
One of the last films by American director Robert Altman (Short Cuts 1993), this is one of the best upstairs-downstaris movies made. The cast alone is absolutely superb: Maggie Smith (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2001), Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow 1999), Clive Owen (Children of Men 2006), Helen Mirren (The Queen 2006), Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977), Stephen Fry (V for Vendetta 2005) and the list goes on. Although the film is really a look at all the various dramas playing out at Gosford Park during one fataful weekend, the film in large parts follows the perspective of Mary Maceachran (Kelly Macdonald, Brave 2012) who is the newly employed lady’s maid of Constance Trentham (Maggie Smith). Like us, she is new to this world, and thus we are introduced to the familly, and the way things are done in the house alongside her. Drama is in abundance both within the family that has gathered for a weekend shoot, and below in the kitchens and in the narrow servant halls. Several characters are sneaking behind their wives’ backs, an engagement may or may not be under way, a business deal is about to be broken up, and it all culminates in a murder that several are more than pleased has happened. The investigation itself is faulty at best (luckily Mary Meceachran can help us connect the dots), lead by the ever-wonderful Stephen Fry as Inspector Thompson, who is always interrupted. Especially entertaining are the Bob Balaban, as a Hollywood producer researching a new Charlie Chang movie, a clear satire of the unrealism of Hollywood movies, and his compagnon Ivor Novello (the only historical figure in the film) provides the soundtrack with wonderful songs. Out of the many great performances, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren stand out (and were both Oscar nominated): Maggie Smith as a character is very much like the Dowager Countess in TV’s Downton Abbey and she steals every scene she is in. Helen Mirren is great, especially in the final act in which her character goes through quite a few things, which I will not spoil for you. Before watching this wonderful movie, be warned it is a very slow-paced, and not a mystery in the traditional sense, as the murder inquiry is a small part of the film. But it is utterly wonderful.
There isn’t a single scene without a servant present, and none of the servants wears any make-up as would have been the case in real life.
The songs performed by Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam) in the movie were written by the real life Ivor Novello and are sung by Jeremy Northam, who is accompanied on the soundtrack by his brother, Christopher.
Picture Copyright: UIP