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Gosford Park  

Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Julian Fellowes from an idea by Robert Altman and Bob Balaban
Starring: Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Camilla Rutherford, Maggie Smith, Charles Dance, Geraldine Somerville, Tom Hollander, Natasha Wightman, James Wilby, Claudie Blakley, Lawrence Fox, Trent Ford, Jeremy Northam, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, Eileen Atkins, Derek Jacobi, Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Swift, Meg Wynn Owen, Sophie Thompson, Teresa Churcher, Sarah Flind, Lucy Cohu, Finty Williams, Emma Buckley, Laura Harling, Tilly Gerrard, Will Beer, Gregor Henderson-Begg, Leo Bill, Ron Puttock, Adrian Preater, Kelly McDonald, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Joanna Maude, Adrian Scarborough, Francis Low, John Atterbury, Frank Thornton, Stephan Fry, Ron Webster

Rated: R (Language / Brief Sexuality)
Running Time: 137 Min.

The place is England, the year is 1932. When guests and their servants check in for a weekend of hunting at the grand country estate of Sir William McCordle, little do they know what shocks and surprises await them. It appears the upper class and the working class may have more in common than originally suspected, as events soon unfold to reveal hidden agendas, dark secrets, and murder most foul. Well, perhaps not murder most foul, but murder very nearly foul, since it seems that almost everyone in attendance has a motive for wanting the recently departed bumped off.

Gosford Park combines an enormous cast of characters, countless interwoven storylines and plot twist upon plot twist to create a fascinating story of mystery, the likes of which is seldom experienced beyond the pages of a good book. Full of wonderful characters and charmingly dry wit, this movie would be almost as entertaining even without a perplexing murder!

What I enjoyed most about Gosford Park were the more mundane aspects of the story. Homicide aside, the film is also a wonderful time capsule of customs followed by England's aristocracy, from a period when the terms 'upstairs' and 'downstairs' bluntly denoted a person's status in society. The inference is that never the two shall meet, but the human condition begs to differ! This movie has a great deal of fun proving that, while the ruling class may choose to believe otherwise, when everything is said and done, people are all pretty much the same. (Don't tell the Royals!)

As for directing, Robert Altman has the ability to juggle large casts and seemingly unrelated subplots as easily as most people juggle two oranges, and weaves around what could be considered the central plot of the story with incredible skill. A fine screenplay points the way, but in the hands of a lesser director, Gosford Park could have become an incomprehensible mess.

Another skill Robert Altman has is in combining Hollywood's best and brightest stars to fill his movies, but this time he's done it with many of Britain's greatest talents. Maggie Smith as Constance, Countess of Trentham and Kelly McDonald as her maid, Mary are the focus of much of the storyline and their performances, as well as those of the rest of the cast, are nothing short of extraordinary.

So, unless you've missed my many clues, it should come as no surprise that I think Gosford Park is a grand film to say the least. Good show!

4 out of 5

AJ Vestal

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