Gosford Park

Maybe I missed something under all the Brit crustiness, but I thought this movie was bad. Really bad. Horrid. A dreadful bore.

No real plot; a bunch of people show up for a hunt, the bastard patriarch is killed, and you find out who did it. Some double entendre. Ironic American character. Lots of whispering. Nice costumes and sets. Competently filmed and directed.

So… what gives? Did anyone here like it, and if so, why?

“Nice costumes and sets. Competently filmed and directed.”

I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong here, Gosford Park is definitely not for everyone. It’s kind of a strange film. Like how I imagine “My Dinner With Andre” must be, and I can only imagine that because I haven’t seen that one yet. That doesn’t make any sense does it?

Anyway, I’d substitute for your above quote:
Beautiful costumes and sets. Brilliantly filmed and directed. Oh, and acted. The movie had a momentum I found “not boring” and instead refreshing and charming. It also did a nice job turning the murder mystery on its ear, while also showing us the Downstairs people as three dimensional. The scene where the actor is playing the piano and singing, and everything that everyone else is doing during that scene… everything about how that scene is shown, shot, and all that happens during it, was just wonderful to me.

My only problem with the film was how long the ending took to sort out and the bumbling inspector was a little too bumbling for me.

If you don’t like Altman, Pilbod, we can’t help you.

I thought Gosford Park was Altman at his best. It never ceases to amaze me how he can have so many storylines told with so much overlapping dialogue and still pull a powerful central plot from it all.

As I’ve said on the other board, I thought Helen Mirren was stunning. It was one of those performances that puts a maximum amount of impact into a minimum amount of screen time with nary a sign of straining at it.

“Are pheasants dangerous?”


Maybe it was the thick accents or that the characters were mumbling, but I really had trouble understanding a lot of the spoken dialogue. This detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the film. Otherwise, I thought the premise was entertaining.

  • Alan

I loved Gosford Park. I thought the characterisations were excellent. I also liked how they showed every characters life in minutae.

A very good film that deserves a repeat viewing.

Maybe it was the thick accents or that the characters were mumbling, but I really had trouble understanding a lot of the spoken dialogue.

Same here. I had to turn the volume on the TV way up just to hear what people were saying. I thought maybe I had a bad tape or something. Even missing a quarter of dialog, I still enjoyed it. Maggie Smith was great and talked real loud too.

Thinking back on it Gosford Park made me feel like a fly on the wall.

In stark contrast (and I do mean “stark”) one of the cable channels was showing “Murder by Death” last night. Man, Peter Sellers makes for a crude Chinaman…

“Ah, murder weapon not there!” - Sellers
“THE, it’s THE murder weapon. Goddamn it I hate your pronounciation” - Truman Capote

Almost as crude as Peter Falk trying to play a Phillip Marlowe character.

I wanted to like this movie, but I found it terribly boring. I also dislike movies where I accurately predict the plot twists, so it was a double whammy for me. Not recommended.

We saw it in the theater, and they had a big “the dialogue is supposed to be inaudible at certain points in the movie” sign outside the theater.

I do like some Altman movies, but this one I felt was just an exercise in clever dialogue and blocking. And with no plot or character developement, I just didn’t think there was anything to really latch onto.

And my problem with the plot is that it isn’t actually a murder mystery or a mother’s/son’s quest for revenge because these aren’t even really part of the movie. Unlike, say, an Agatha Christie, there is no formal logic problem of whodunnit. There also isn’t any whydunnit because there is no in-depth characterizations (thought they were terribly cliche) or character developement.

And because of this punchline is more of an epilogue that the viewer doesn’t (or shouldn’t) even care about.

But you’re right the movie isn’t totally devoid of charm; the scene with Ivor singing is nicely editted together, and the view of the servants is pleasant, just not my cup of tea. I guess I’ll stick with the Chandler Hammet when I want murder and clever dialogue.

And Popeye. That was an Altman movie I could sink my teeth into.

Oh yeah, I turned on the subtitles a few minutes into it because I kept missing lines.

“Unlike, say, an Agatha Christie, there is no formal logic problem of whodunnit.”

I don’t think this is what Altman was doing. In fact, I’m not sure how well this bears out, but aren’t Altman’s ensemble tapestries sort of a genre unto themselves? Was The Player a whodunnit? Was Nashville a commentary on violence in America? Was MASH a war movie? Was Short Cuts a, well, whatever it could have been?

Also, I think that worrying about missing a line of dialogue is a misguided approach to what Altman does. There’s a whole he manages to convey without simply building it on isolated lines. I respect that. It’s a rare approach to filmmaking, where line A is followed by line B, which is followed by line C, and Significance may as well be marked with a dramatic asterisk. Altman let’s stuff happen and you watch (Bub’s fly on the wall comment is probably the best way to put it). And it’s remarkable to me that he can pull together a story as coherent as Gosford Park from all the stuff that’s happening.

As for there being no character development in Gosford Park, I’d have to say you’re high, Pillbod. The movie was two and a half hours of character development!


Yeah, you’re right, perhaps I was high when I wrote “no character developement”. Probably explains why I posted this in the “books, etc…” section instead of “Movies”.

Perhaps Altman’s movies are a genre unto themselves. I suppose the genre could be compared to a still-life, a snapshot, a careful scrutiny of a very specific time and place. I guess that’s charming, but… ah well, not for me.

If by character development you mean whether a character changed during the movie, Pillbod is right that Gosford Park had little of it. The characters are not different at the beginning than they are at the end (except perhaps for the initially naive maid – the unlikely Sherlock Holmes). The movie by its nature had far too many characters to allow character development in this sense, and it isn’t fair to expect Altman to provide character development in this sense, when his directorial style relies on large ensemble casting.

If by character development you mean whether our knowledge of the characters is different at the end than at the beginning, then Tom is right that Gosford Park had a lot of it. We start the movie with the idea that the upper class will dominate the plot line and that the lower class is there simply to fill in the blanks, serve the food, and be non-obtrusive. In numerous ways, the scriptwriter then showed that the lower class servants had lives as well, and that the issues in their lives had a great impact on the lives of the upper class, including of course the death of Sir William.

Like Tom, I especially liked Helen Mirren, the housekeeper, who is brilliant with only a limited appearance. The Upstairs/Downstairs theme is reflected in her following great lines (quoted in imdb): “I am the perfect servant. I have no life” and “I’m the perfect servant. When they’re hungry, the food’s on the table; when they’re tired, the beds are turned down–I know it before they know it themselves.” In the end, however, in an indelible scene, we know that she did have a life which had a great impact on the life of her master.

I rented the movie and watched it with the subtitles on. Unlike Tom, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of the many great lines. Great movie, but I like movies from that time period. I recommend another of my recent favorites from this time period, An Ideal Husband, for those who liked Gosford Park, but again, for the same reasons, watch it with the subtitles on.