WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
It’s about 2.5 hours of oh-so-dry and proper English wit and social class humor surrounding a gaggle of English of stuffy aristocrats and their long-suffering servants. Halfway through, a corpse drops in and the starched affair begins to slowly veer into Agatha Christie mode.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
GOSFORD PARK is like watching the world’s longest game of Clue, only there are three times too many Professor Plums. Since it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, I’d be insane for calling it a “bad” movie, of course. Directed by Robert Altman, the film logically contains several components that make for a pedigreed flick (flawless production design, several brilliant actors strutting their stuff, etc.), but I simply couldn’t help being monumentally bored. I’ll be the first to admit that ‘Masterpiece Theater’ is a worthwhile program, but it still puts me to sleep. Altman has always been kind of a ‘maverick’ filmmaker, and he’s a guy who always gets final cut. In the case of GOSFORD PARK, I’m thinking an objective eye could have trimmed the movie to a less yawn inducing trial.
There are about two dozen characters, each of whom get their own subplot, regardless of how interesting it may or may not be. A handful of performers stand out from the crowd, most notably Emily Watson as a struggling maid and Bob Balaban as a clueless movie producer, but there’s only so many pregnant pauses and stifled conversations one can handle. It’s painfully clear that I am not the intended audience for this movie, so don’t think me a moron for not enjoying what the Academy called one of 2001’s Top Five Films. It’s a handsome and well-performed film, but (if you’re at all like me) very little goes on that will actually hold your interest. Those who find the attitudes and affectations of English aristocracy the pinnacle of all things fascinating, you’ll undoubtedly love GOSFORD PARK. Uncultured swine I may be, but I know when a movie’s putting me to sleep.
There’s a full-length audio commentary with director Robert Altman, production designer Stephen Altman, and producer David Levy, which is recommendable only to those who adore Altman’s work. What I heard was drier than burnt toast. Also included is a second audio commentary with screenwriter Julian Fellowes, which I couldn’t bring myself to listen to. Sorry. There’s also a collection of deleted scenes with optional commentary, for those who thought the movie was too short, and two featurettes: The Making of Gosford Park, a behind-the-scenes peek that runs about twenty minutes, and the 8-minute The Authenticity of Gosford Park, which is a cool glimpse at the pains taken to maintain the authenticity of the relationships between master and servant.
Another cool feature is the Cast & Filmmaker’s Q & A Session, which runs just under 25 minutes, and features interviews with Altman, Fellowes, Levy, Bob Balaban. Kelly MacDonald, Jeremy Northam, Ryan Phillippe, and Helen Mirren. Closing out this packed DVD are the more traditional features: the original theatrical trailer, cast/crew bios, and a collection of trailers for other Universal Home Video titles.
Simply not my cup of tea, but Universal deserves praise for packing this DVD to the gills with extra goodies for the movie fans who really DID love it.