Enkomputiligis Don HARLOW

Gosford Park

by Robert ALTMAN and Bob BALABAN

reviewed by Don Harlow

Along with Memento -- for which I regret not writing a review at the time I saw it -- this movie falls into a small category of what I call tours de force -- films that pick up a challenge and brilliantly respond to it. Unfortunately, in this case as in that of Memento, it is not clear to me that the challenge was one that deserved a response. I found this fairly well-done multi-story-line film rather ho-hum, mainly because it was "multi-story-line". Well, at least I didn't fall asleep, though at times that was a challenge, and not necessarily one to which I really needed to rise ...

For reasons that I don't completely understand (perhaps because my ear for thick English accents has deteriorated in the last 30 years), Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) has invited a dozen friends, spouses and various hangers-on to a weekend shooting party at his magnificent country estate, back in 1932. This crew of back-biters, leeches and inveterate snobs naturally bring along their various servants, to be added to the below-stairs crew at McCordle's estate, thus providing us with what seems like a cast of thousands. These include, happily (for us, not necessarily for them), a number of relatively well-known and competent -- at least in Britain -- British actors; I recognized Jeremy Northam (from Emma) and Derek Jacobi (in his younger years, the emperor C-c-claudius; more recently, Senator Gracchus in Gladiator). One may wonder how many of the characters in the film were genuine; at least Northam played the role of one Ivor Novello, a perhaps unhappily forgotten British actor of the first half of the twentieth century (he gets credit in the film for the music that Northam sings and accompanies on the piano), but Bob Balaban's Morris Weissman, an American film producer (who is constantly on the phone to California, trying to put together Charlie Chan in London -- a film that actually appeared in 1934; but I find no "Weissman" associated with it) appears to be fictional.

Between them, many of the characters in this story have their own tales with which to regale us, each one worth about five minutes -- and between them, they add up to two and a quarter somniferous hours. Fortunately for the film, three threads do run through it, and though they don't make a lot of sense, they join together to provide some kind of plot. One is the reaction of Mary, the Countess of Trentham's relatively inexperienced maid (Kelly McDonald), to everything that is going on, her friendship with Elsie the head housemaid (Emily Watson) who is also McCordle's current mistressette, and her growing attraction to Robert Parks, Raymond Count Stockbridge's valet (Clive Owen), who grew up in a London orphanage, though he was not, as it happens, an orphan. A second is Parks's story and his reasons for being there. A third is a series of attempted murders, and actual murders (two), aimed at McCordle, and the reasons for them. McCordle kicks the bucket about two thirds of the way through the film; two policemen come on the scene, make a royal balls-up of the investigation, everybody goes home (without ever capturing the killer[s], though the film audience knows who they are), and fin.

I would add that this is one of those movies in which you need a scorecard and a flashlight to keep track of who's who. Unfortunately, the Orinda Theatre provided neither, and some of the characters confused me completely. IMDB provides a complete cast list (which I accessed in preparing this), but in a rather confusing order -- rather than alphabetically, by order of appearance, or by order of importance, they list aristrocracy on the top, servant-class characters down below, which somehow seems appropriate ...

There is some pretty, though generally grey and somewhat soggy, English countryside, but not very much. In the end, I recommend that, instead of seeing this film, you get yourself a set of Pride and Prejudice DVDs and watch them a couple of times at home.

Aliaj Recenzoj / Other Reviews