It is November 1932. Gosford Park is the magnificent country estate to which Sir William McCordle and his wife, Lady Sylvia, gather relations and friends for a weekend shooting party. They have invited an eclectic group. As the guests assemble in the gilded drawing rooms above their personal maids and valets swell the ranks of the house servants in the teeming kitchens and corridors below-stairs. But all is not as it seems: neither amongst the bejeweled guests lunching and dining at their enormous leisure, nor in the attic bedrooms and stark work stations where the servants labour for the comfort of their employers. Part comedy of manners and part mystery, the film is finally a moving portrait of events that bridge generations, class, sex, tragic personal history – and culminate in a murder. Or is it two murders…?
With such an exceptional British cast I thought this cannot go wrong but although the acting was superb and Altman captured the 'business' of the servants, the film lacked a focus until a murder was finally revealed. I found the characters did what they could with the script but no real warmth developed between them and I felt it lacked an emotional impact, which coupled with an aimless storyline, the film was almost about nothing but the daily lives of those 'upstairs' and those 'downstairs'. Could have been much, much more!
I loved this film and was utterly engrossed from start to finish. How can you beat a star-studded cast, happy to take supporting roles, just to have the opportunity to work with director, Robert Altman? Throughout the film we see the difference in lifestyle betwen the aristocratic family and their friends above stairs and the busy servant world downstairs. If we ever climb the stairs to visit the sumptuous world above, there is always a servant's eye watching somewhere and any gossip is quickly relayed on their return downstairs. This is a perfect murder-mystery movie that I would definitely recommend to anyone! Wonderful performances especially come from Maggie Smith and Emily Watson.