One of the older period dramas that operates as a kind of mystery, this is Gosford Park. A film that Julian Fellows put his name on long before he had mainstream notoriety, and before his real “upstairs downstairs” became famous. 20+ Years old now, we revisited the period drama recently and are finally sharing a for-the-archives review.
Gosford Park (2001) Film Review
In any country home, there is expectations of a good gathering. Sylvia McCordle (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband William (Michael Gambon) present guests with an invitation for shooting and other merrymaking at their estate. Among their guests is Constance Trentham (Maggie Smith); the Stockbridge’s (Charles Dance, Geraldine Somerville); the Meredith’s (Tom Hollander, Natasha Wightman) who have little capitol; Freddie and Mabel Nesbitt (James Wilby, Claudie Blakley); Rupert Standish (Laurence Fox), who may have a little something for the McCordle daughter, Isobel (Camilla Rutherford); and also, the filmmaker, Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam). All are guests who have unusual relationships with each other and some looking for a more comfortable lifestyle.
Downstairs the servants of the house include the cook Mrs. Croft (Eileen Atkins) and stern housekeeper Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren); maids Elsie (Emily Watson) and Dorothy (Sophie Thompson); and guest servants like the mysterious Henry Denton (Ryan Phillippe) or Robert Parks (Clive Owen); and finally the quiet and studious maid for Constance Trentham, Mary (Kelly Macdonald). All have secrets and stories of their own. But who among the upstairs or downstairs guests has intent to murder?
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In many ways, this feels like an apropos precursor to what you’ll see watching ITV’s Downton Abbey. There is a lot of similar moments or key plot points that you find in Downton Abbey. Plus, there’s a slew of unruly characters, both above and below stairs, and of course, a death that’s not in the least little bit natural. One of the things this film doesn’t do well is the introduction of characters. The only way we realize who is who is by carefully listening to the conversation. The harried introduction to everyone is sometimes overwhelming, though some connections we pick out a little easier. Additionally we see actors like Stephen Fry, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi, Richard E. Grant, Adrian Scarborough (currently starring in The Chelsea Detective), and more.
Aside from the impressive cast list, the film is entertaining if you don’t mind watching something where the connections aren’t perfectly intact. This one is unusual, but still the same, and beyond saying this, I don’t really know how to describe this one. There’s good performances, and depth, sometimes where you don’t expect to see it. Plus, just the fact that all of this takes place at a country estate in the 1920s is enough charm to make it worth watching. There’s some wit here and there, and a wide array of personalities among these characters, too.
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You can find Gosford Park digitally on Amazon Video
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Content: there is an implication of sex between a house maid and a man (we later learn who). We see movement in the background and the rush to “straighten” ones clothes when they’re interrupted. There’s three or so uses of the f-word, and other implications of innuendo. A girl is nearly assaulted when a man finds her along, and he tries to have his way (someone sends him packing). There’s a dead body with some blood. The film is rated R.