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"Gosford Park"

Directed by Robert Altman.
Written by Julian Fellowes.
Starring Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Michael Gambon and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Release Year:  2001
Review Date:  1/16/02 

Folks--

As I continue the march towards the 2002 Oscars, I once again decided to see a film that might be up for consideration when the award nominations are announced in February.  "Gosford Park" has a lot of buzz, but I haven't seen a commercial or heard anything about it, so I went and checked it out today.

The film, set in 1930s England (I think), revolves around the estate of Gosford Park, a fictional grounds where a bunch of rich folks and a bunch of their servants hang out for a few days sipping on gin and juice (...LAID back).  What they are really doing is enjoying a weekend of shooting birds and drinking scotch, all the while doing the one thing that Scots and Brits do best:  gossip!  While all of this is going on, the master of the estate, Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), is making enemies fast, and someone decides to put him out of his misery...but, who?

And, in the course of our 130-minute journey, we meet a whole bunch of people who might be suspects.  So, like any other Robert Altman film (he also brought us "The Player"...and the awful "Ready to Wear"/"Pret-a-Porter"), there are a busload of stars that need screen time; here, they include Kristin Scott Thomas, Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Jeremy Northam, and many more.  The film's set-up--which felt like the Tim Curry "Clue" film from 15 years ago, except "Gosford Park" features *acting*--makes for a whole lot of listening early on, since you know that someone is going to get it and you want to make sure you know who it might be!

But, Altman does an incredible job of making every scene count and then, halfway through the film (when the murder takes place), deftly puts five or six suspects out there for you to play with in your mind.  Unlike many of these "Remains of the Day"-lookalike films, this film actually isn't boring!  This is mostly because the script features plenty of subtle laughs and a beautiful-looking estate that serves as the set.

All of the acting is perfect, but the best performance of them all?  For me, it is definitely Maggie Smith (she was just in the first "Harry Potter" film), playing Countess Trentham as a snobby old bitch...all of her scenes are great, and I would love to see this performance get nominated.  A great film all around.

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09