USER REVIEW: ‘Gosford Park’ (2001)

gosfordpark

Robert Altman month is winding down as September comes to an end here at Film Misery. I’ll have a few more reviews posted before the end of the week and the usual top 10 (which is really hard). In the mean time, FM reader Brandon Cooley has reviewed one of my favorite Altman films: Gosford Park.

Set in 1932, Sir William McCordle gathers friends for a weekend shooting party at his mansion in Gosford Park. When they arrive everything seems to be normal, but by looking closely, all of the characters have something to hide and then someone is murdered. I was interested to see this, because it is a murder mystery and there are not very many recent films of that genre. I wasn’t disappointed.

The movie stars Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, and many other familiar faces. Sometimes the number of characters is overwhelming, but what separates it from a movie like Crash is that the entire movie takes place inside the mansion creating a sense of isolation. While watching, you feel like one of the guests, meeting these people by briefly listening to conversations and after the murder you will find yourself accusing certain guests almost as if you were one of them.

What makes this movie unique and great is its screenplay that won an Oscar in 2002. Robert Altman himself and Bob Balaban thought of the idea, while Julian Fellowes wrote it. Inspired by Agatha Christie novels, the story focuses on many characters and the way they interact with each other is very intriguing, but make sure to listen carefully and maybe turn the sub-titles on because it can sometimes be hard to follow. This film proves that you can create an interesting story by just putting characters with different personalities into a setting and watching what happens.

Even though many viewers will focus on the smart dialogue, the art direction deserves praise as well. The set decoration of the mansion is mesmerizing and there points in the movie where the cinematography is excellent.

Robert Altman shows off his directing skill in this and deserved the Golden Globe for best director. I would recommend this to somebody who wants to see a unique movie that’s different from the common formula of what we usually see.

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  • I agree about the praise in the Art Direction. It’s elegant, but not over the top like so many period films.

    When I was listening to the director’s commentary for ‘M*A*S*H’ he mentioned that he used a technique in both ‘MASH’ and ‘Gosford Park’ where the camera is constantly moving in a curved motion to make the audience feel like they have to peer around. It makes you feel like you’re spying or seeing something shouldn’t be.

    Subtle things like that are what makes Altman such a genius.

    Good review, Brandon.

  • Mike

    Is this movie kinda like the board game “Clue” ? Good review, now i really want to see it

  • That’s a good comparison. It has the same setup, but this is more about the differing class systems between the servants and Lords and Ladies of the household.

  • Brandon Cooley

    Actually I saw the movie based on the board game a long time ago and Gosford Park did remind a little bit of it.

    Although of course the movie “Clue” wasn’t very good but that’s a whole different discussion.

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