8:00 PM, 21st August, 2002
Watching Gosford Park is a bit like getting lost inside a fully operational, early 1930s English manor house, stumbling and eavesdropping your way through all of its dirty secrets. The actual character getting lost is the maid Mary (MacDonald), newly taken into service by the Countess of Trentham (Smith). She accompanies her lady to the McCordles' for another of those 'tiresome' shooting parties. Through Mary's experiences we are able to get used to the goings-on of the house and to the rest of the characters, of whom there are enough to fill five drawing rooms (and quite a number of police line-ups). Those downstairs include the conscientious butler, the strict housekeeper, the indiscreet head housemaid, and two visiting valets. Upstairs we discover the master of the house, his bored wife and uncertain daughter, as well as all the guests. Then of course there are the many, many skeletons in the closets. It's a good thing there are so many closets. The interactions between characters and the exploration of the nuances of class relations are fascinating and far transcend the stereotypes of the drawing room 'whodunnit'. It is a pity then, that the murder feels so 'tacked on' - like an excuse rather than a reason for the movie. However, the performances and Altman's direction allow for a good time.