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Gosford Park (R)
Official Site
Director: Robert Altman
Producer: Robert Altman, Bob Balaban
Written by: Julian Fellowes
Cast: Emily Watson, Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillipe, Kelly MacDonald, Kristen Scott Thomas, Jeremy Northam, Derek Jacobi, Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant, Michael Gambon, Bob Balaban, James Wilby, Charles Dance, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi

Rating: out of 5

A weekend getaway at a manor in the English countryside usually provides the perfect setting for mayhem and often murder. This is definitely the case with Robert Altmanís new offering, GOSFORD PARK. The film explores the English class system and master-servant relationships while keeping the audience intrigued with an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery plot.

A number of friends and family find themselves at the home of Sir William McCordle (Gambon). Included in this bunch are Sir Williamís wife Lady Sylvia (Scott Thomas), his cousin and world-famous actor Ivor Novello (Northam), a Hollywood film producer (Balaban) and a few money-hungry relatives, including one Lady Trentham (Smith).

Accompanying these various dignitaries are their trusty servants including Lady Trenthamís newly recruited helper Mary Maceachran (MacDonald), a new valet named Robert Parks (Owen), and a curious helper called Henry Denton (Phillipe).

The various sordid details of Sir Williamís life come to light as the weekend hunting trip gets underway. Mary Maceachran provides the naÔve eyes from which the class system can be fully delved into. She is shown the ropes by razor-sharp head housemaid Elsie (Watson).

What makes GOSFORD PARK so engaging is the array of mysterious characters walking the halls of the manor. Each servant, each guest, each cook and driver and everyone in between has a story and slowly but surely their true natures are revealed. The entire cast is astounding, without doubt one of the best ensemble casts seen in recent years. Surprisingly, Ryan Phillipe provides a standout performance as a valet with more than one secret to hide. His Scottish accent is wonderfully convincing and proves he is more than just a teen flick actor.

The only negative aspect of the movie is the obvious nature of the plot. It is quite easy to discern within the first half of the movie not only the major secrets each of the characters is holding closely guarded, but also the identity of the murderer isnít that difficult to stumble upon. Also, the pace of the film seems a little off and at times it drags to a point of frustration. The caliber of the acting allows for such things to be overlooked, but not completely dismissed.

GOSFORD PARK is a wonderfully crafted tale that gives the feeling of having read a great (but very thick) novel. If you can get past its dense nature, you are provided with a fulfilling literary experience.

óPriti Ubhayakar

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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