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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Gosford Park (2001)

In 1932, a group of British aristocrats gather for a weekend in the country at an estate owned by a wealthy factory owner (Michael Gambon) and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas). But what should have been an ordinary weekend is interrupted by a murder. Robert Altman would be the last director one would think of for this both witty and incisive look at the British class system which suddenly turns into an Agatha Christie mystery in its last hour. This is Merchant/Ivory territory and the film is a hybrid of REMAINS OF THE DAY and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. But since this is Altman and not Merchant/Ivory, the film is fluid rather than stiff, open rather than stuffy. Julian Fellowes' Oscar winning screenplay glides between the downstairs servants and the upstairs aristocrats giving us a peek at their private lives and if the servants seem to be more interesting than the aristocrats, it's probably because they're more relatable to us. The murder mystery aspect is only interesting because of the motive. The victim is extremely unlikable so we don't really care who killed him and the incompetence of the police detective (Stephen Fry) investigating the case insures the murder will never be solved. The impeccable ensemble cast includes Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Alan Bates, Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, Ryan Phillippe, Eileen Atkins, Jeremy Northam, Richard E. Grant and Kelly Macdonald.  

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