Gosford Park

Review Date:
Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Julian Fellowes
Producers: Robert Altman, David Levy
Kristen Scott Thomas as Lady Sylvia, Ryan Phillippe as Henry Denton, Emily Watson as Elsie
A bunch of snooty rich British folk get together for a weekend hunting expedition at an old affluent guy’s mansion. They each bring their own valets/servants, who remain below the stairs, while they party it up, above the stairs. At some point during the weekend, a murder occurs, after which, many are caught under the web of suspicion.
This movie features a wonderful set design, authentic costumes and period production, solid casting, but an unbearable runtime, waaaaaaaay too many characters and almost zero story. It actually took me about an hour or so just to start figuring out who was who (there must be at least 25 different characters here, a handful of whom look alike), and just about that same amount of time to decipher some kind of actual meaning from all of their incessant jabbering, much of which featured British accents, whispers galore and overlappings. Basically, director Robert Altman is attempting to revisit the glory days of his earlier multi-character films, but if you’re going to put together this many people, I would suggest that a) the audience can actually tell them apart and understand what they’re saying b) some of them actually have something significant to say and c) there is an actual story to tell, as opposed to a bunch of uninteresting aristocrats and servant folk standing around gossiping during the entire movie. What a stinker! Thank God for the absolute great looks and phony-baloney (yet cool) accent of Ryan Phillippe, who looked magnificent in his top hat and tails, for giving the film a little bit of that much needed life and diversity. I mean, does anything really want to watch 2 hours+ of a bunch of rich, snooty folks and their servants, all small-talking and rumor-mongering over one another? A lame concept and movie. This picture bored me to death, fooled me into believing that “something” was eventually going to happen (trust me, even when something does happen, nobody in the movie gives a rat’s ass about it, so why should you?) and forgot to add any depth to any of its zillion characters. If this guy was trying to set a record for the most people with speaking parts in a movie, he may have gotten close, but if he was trying to make an interesting movie, he failed miserably. Think CLUE, but without the fun, intrigue or cohesiveness.

I guess it also doesn’t help that I’ve never really bought into the whole blue-blood, royal family, upper class, elitist bullshit that still stinks up many nations today. Having grown up in a working class family, I’m afraid that I never really saw the appeal of looking up to those who generally do nothing more than look down on everyone else and exploit the riches which they’d been randomly handed at birth. But that’s more of a personal attack. The truth is that this film sucks enough on its own. For example, at some point, it actually attempts to inject some kind of direction into its mindless ramblings by killing off its central character, but the rest of the people in the story just don’t give a shit about the man’s death. Everybody just seems to go about their business like nothing ever happened…what the –?!? Now I might not be an aristocrat or anything, but I know enough to say that a death usually affects human beings in one way or the other. Here, nobody seems to act any differently, confusing me even more about the point of this film in the first place. By the way, the mystery of the murder is barely intriguing in itself, and once resolved, brings even less weight to the proceedings. And if all of this was supposed to be a comedy, then excuse me, but I must have missed every single joke (save for the inspector, who was a decent goof for the few minutes that he joined the fray). Then again, maybe the jokes were too high-brow or “clever” for my appetite…who knows! And to be honest…who cares! There was no one or no thing in this movie that I gave half a crap about as it was winding down and performance-wise, the only person who really stood out was Maggie Smith and the aforementioned Phillipe. The rest just muddled about, barely given a few moments to shine, while others were grossly underused. This is for pure Altman fans only or for real-life “film critics” who usually enjoy lame-ass, pretentious flicks like this one (no surprise, it’s already racked up several “critics circle” awards). This type of movie reminds me of why I started to contribute my own reviews to the Net, since I believe many film critics’ high-brow, artsy sensibilities have lost touch with regular audiences. This film is a great example of that dichotomy.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Gosford Park



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