The film Gosford Park will evoke similarities to the current British hit Downton Abbey or possibly Upstairs, Downstairs, with the exception that Gosford Park is a murder mystery in the Agatha Christie tradition, reminiscent of her popular novel And Then There Were None.
An all-star cast includes actors known to the American public such as Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Clive Owen and Emily Watson.
The action takes place in 1932 on the country estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his beautiful, much younger wife Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas) who have invited their friends and relatives for a weekend shooting party. Some of the guests have also brought along their servants for the weekend. It appears that the male guests take part in the shooting while the women sit around gossiping, playing cards, and choosing their outfits for the next grand meal.
It is revealed early on that the host, Sir William, is not very well liked; in fact, he has threatened to take away his sister Constance’s allowance. Constance, the Countess of Trentham, is a widow played adeptly by Maggie Smith. Sir William has also stated that he will renege on his pledge to back an investment scheme of his brother-in-law Lord Stockbridge.
Lord Stockbridge’s valet, Robert Parks (Clive Owen), has come for the weekend also, and during the course of events, Parks begins an affair with Constance’s personal maid Mary. This is not the only pairing that weekend as servants, masters and mistresses mix it up quite skillfully during that short time period.
It is not surprising that Sir William is found stabbed in the chest in his library. It is shocking, however, to learn that he has also been poisoned, most likely prior to the stabbing. Two detectives are called to the scene where they deduce that everyone under Sir William’s roof that weekend is a likely suspect.
The viewer is introduced to the odd habits that are practiced to promulgate the differences in class between servants and their masters. For instance, a valet is not called by his own name, but by the last name of his master. Servants are privy to the personal lives of their superiors, and in many cases, they chat among themselves concerning the daily gossip.
Much of the resolution of the problem is revealed in the last ten minutes of the film. The audience has been given a few clues as to the outcome, but nothing has prepared them for the final conclusion.
The film was nominated for several awards both in Britain and in the United States. Director Robert Altman won a Golden Globe for Best Director and Julian Fellowes won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
British films are loved in the United States. However, it is oftentimes difficult to discern what the British are saying, with their slurred British accents. This was definitely a problem with Gosford Park.
Gosford Park (2001)