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Gosford Park

August 30, 2010

Gosford Park (2001)
Director: Robert Altman
Actors: Kelly Macdonald, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren

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Synopsis: A ‘murder mystery’ inside a British stately home.

Review: Probably best taken as a diverting and knowingly trivial confection – with arguably the chief pleasure coming from the project’s extensive and illustrious cast list – Gosford Park spreads itself too widely and casually to realistically be taken as a work of major substance. Altman’s major triumph is in the successful conception and transference of the “Who’s Who” gallery of British acting talent into his familiar modus operandi of broad and busy narratives.

The film unfortunately fails to rise above its attractive premise, with the diegesis buckling under the weight of too many characters. The narrative is also a little bit too “written” and consciously dramatic (each character has their own telegraphed mini-epiphany) and the tagged-on ending that tries to solve the “whodunnit” and apply some sombre gravitas, is misconceived and seems to have wandered in from another much more self-important picture. The subplot involving Stephen Fry’s bumbling detective – though, once again, seeming great on paper and in the casting/development process – doesn’t really work, as it dissipates the intriguing opening hour where characters and their potentially malevolent motives are explored, and Fry is surprisingly uncharismatic in the role (a criticism usually anathema to him) as he offers a weak imitation of a Peter Sellers/Inspector Clouseau-style incompetent. (September 2007)

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