*Gosford Park*: Mind-numbingly British


By Mike Machian

So I was asked if I would like to do a review of *Gosford Park.* It’s directed by Robert Altman and the trailers made it seem amusing.

Standing (alone) in the very long line for the movie, I noticed that I was one of the youngest people in line. That hasn’t happened in a long time. It wasn’t necessarily a bad sign, it probably wasn’t a good one. At least I was getting in free.

Set at an English country estate in 1932, *Gosford Park* is supposed to be a murder mystery/comedy. An extended family, along with their maids and valets, is invited to the estate for a shooting party. A shooting party, as far as I can tell, is where you stand in a field and shoot at birds.

If you didn’t know Altman is an American, you wouldn’t know it by watching the movie — it is overwhelmingly British. All sorts of weird British idiosyncrasies such as how servants refer to their employers as Your Lordship or Ladyship and the difference between a valet and a butler tend to complicate the story a little. Also complicating things is the large ensemble cast. It’s hard to keep track of who is who and which servant belongs to whom. There are two Americans (the only two people I recognized in the cast), Bob Balaban and Ryan Phillippe, whose characters are used to thicken the plot as well as contrast the cultures of the UK and its bastard child, the United States.

Because the film is a murder movie with a large cast staying at a mansion, you get the impression it could turn into a giant Clue game. The murder mystery aspect of the movie tends to get lost in all the little subplots, which tended to bog down the movie as a whole. Not helping the pace of the movie is the fact the murder happens one hour and 15 minutes into it. That’s over halfway through for people keeping score at home. You shouldn’t wait until the movie is over half done to off someone in a murder mystery movie. By then I was so thoroughly bored watching all the rich Brits complain about their lives that I didn’t care who killed whom.

The trailers for *Gosford Park* also try to pass it off as a comedy. I admit there were times where I was laughing aloud. Unfortunately, the jokes were few and spaced too far apart. There were a few parts I suspect may have been very subtle attempts at humor. They were obviously too subtle if no one laughed and one had to wonder if it was a joke

I’m not quite sure what kind of film *Gosford Park* is. It doesn’t make a very exciting murder mystery and the humor is sparse. But it does succeed in providing us an accurate picture of British high society in the 1930s. Unfortunately, that’s just not very interesting.