In 1932, at a party at a country house, English socialites and their
servants go about their daily lives, until a murder occurs in the house.
Gosford Park (2001)
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Julian Fellowes
Starring Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Kelly Macdonald, Emily Watson, Clive Owen,
Bob Balaban, Camilla Rutherford, Richard E. Grant, Ryan Phillippe, Tom Hollander, Natasha Wightman, Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Geraldine Somerville, Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Northam, James Wilby, Claudie Blakley
Oscar Wins - Best Original Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress
(Maggie Smith), Best Supporting Actress (Helen Mirren),
Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design
I'm not really sure where to start with Gosford Park. The cast is simply incredible, and the story is engaging if not a bit full of itself. But this is a classic English whodunit in the vein of Agatha Christie, so a little self-indulgence is expected. In this film, we are treated to a glimpse into the daily lives of a family of English socialites and the servants that wait on their every whim. This film was written by Julian Fellowes, who also created the TV series Downton Abbey, originally intended to be a direct spin-off of Gosford Park. This film definitely has that same tone, but with a slight hint of black comedy.
It's hard to pick a protagonist out of this stellar bunch, but I suppose the likely candidate would be Mary (Macdonald), maid to Constance Trentham (Smith). Mary is fairly new to this world, so we see most of the movie through her eyes. She interacts with the other servants, including Robert Parks (Owen), a dashing gentleman who works for Raymond Stockbridge (Dance), and Elsie (Watson), one of the maids who helps keep Gosford Park tidy. The house belongs to Sir William McCordle (Gambon), a sour old miser who is planning on cutting off a lot of his family. When he turns up murdered, everyone is a suspect. While I wish we'd gotten more investigation with Inspector Thompson (Fry), the reveal of the murderer is satisfying and makes a great deal of sense.
There are so many standouts in this cast, with Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren being the only one who were recognized by the Academy. But there could've been so many more, as this film never lets any character go to waste. It's a murder mystery wrapped in a satire about early 20th century English decorum. It's worth a watch if this is your cup of tea, no pun intended.