Gosford Park (2001)

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Future reviews will try to limit that, but until then, read at your own risk.

Gosford Park

Dir. Robert Altman, 2001

Supposedly, time heals all wounds, and that includes deliberately misleading trailers. Even so, the light-hearted whodunit I was promised twelve years ago was still in my mind when sitting down to watch this film, Robert Altman’s sometimes painful deconstruction of Agatha Christie-style novels.

The film features a weekend at Gosford Park, the stately home of a ruthless 1920s industrialist who married into the British aristocracy. Amongst the guests are a business partner and his charming but mysterious valet, a down-on-his-luck actor, a Hollywood producer doing research, and his manservant (who is really an actor investigating life “downstairs”). The head of the house is cruel, miserly, and all-around despised, so when he is found murdered– seemingly twice– there are more than enough suspects.

Screenwriter Julian Fellowes used the British class system and the archaic nature of this particular house to dizzy the viewer, and it comes through in the production. The nature of the set gives the sense that the characters are wandering through a maze, and nobody knows the way out. Though Fellowes has lately lionized the class system in his show Downton Abbey, his voice here is far more cynical. Gosford Park is about what happens when the system doesn’t work. A man is dead, but nobody is really bothered because he’s a dickhead. The detective is incompetent, while his more diligent sidekick is ignored. But it shows us without judging the individuals, be they upstairs or downstairs. No one person is really at fault for society, as evidenced perfectly by the double-murder of a single man. A-

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