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Gosford Park

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Gosford Park
from Film Forum, 01/10/02

Robert Altman, the acclaimed director of such classics as McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Player, and recently Cookie's Fortune, is back with a period piece set in 1932. Gosford Park is a country estate where a gathering of British, upper class and lower class, have their party spoiled by a murder. Class divisions in Britain are severe and volatile during this time, and thus, picking a murderer out of a manor filled with people rich and poor, smart and foolish, proves to be a nasty business.

"It is a wonder that PBS did not go off the air with so many stars of English drama committed to this project," says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables). "Such a large cast can tend to be overwhelming for an audience … but the sheer opulence, magnificent set design, and polished performances manage to keep us entertained."

Marie Asner (The Phantom Tollbooth) praises scriptwriter Julian Fellowes: "He shines with dialogue so witty and catty it crystallizes the air around it. Gosford may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it has enough romantic situations, intrigue, and top-notch acting for most. Director Robert Altman has done it again."

Phil Boatwright (The Movie Reporter) says, "It's very long, very stiff-upper lip, but very stylish story telling."

Tom Snyder (Movieguide) calls it "a bit overlong," but adds, "the acting is brilliant and Altman's direction is assured." Snyder concludes that Mary, one of the servants, is a memorable heroine: "It is Mary's compassionate, thoughtful, forgiving spirit that ultimately transcends all the foibles and human sin on display at Gosford Park."

The U.S. Catholic Conference's critic says, this "airy yet biting study of the English class system is a classy ensemble production that employs Altman's roving, inquisitive style with acumen and flair."

Regular newspapers are full of the film's praise. Stephen Holden (The New York Times) calls it "a melt-in-your-mouth hunk of 12-layer English spice cake that will appeal to anyone who feels a nostalgic pang for the long-running British television series Upstairs Downstairs, or for the cozy whodunits of Agatha Christie."

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) calls it "a celebration of styles … an Altman film is like a party with no boring guests. Gosford Park is such a joyous and audacious achievement it deserves comparison with his very best movies."

Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune) calls it "a British period murder mystery for connoisseurs. I warn you, though: For mystery addicts and film buffs alike, this is a movie that demands to be seen more than once. You'll enjoy it even more when you know who done it."