This file was generated 2002-09-03 03:17 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2002-03-30.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> February 2002 >> Gosford Park
Robert Altman is one of the most talented directors when it comes to movies with ensemble casts. With Gosford Park, Altman has perhaps bit off more than I can chew. I found Short Cuts to be manageable in terms of keeping the story lines and character set straight. I count at least twenty-five characters of importance in Gosford Park, a formidable number to introduce meaningfully in 137 minutes. Remembering names for all but a handful was completely out of the question. Mustering significant interest in the outcome of the murder investigation, since I didn't really know who was who, was even harder. Altman delights in this sort of thing, though, and expects audience members to sit through something like this at least two or three times before they say they've "seen" the movie. I'm sorry, but if a movie doesn't hook me the first time, there's little chance I'm going back to see what I've missed. Just ask the folks who complain about my opinion of Caddyshack. With so much plot and so many people, it's probably a good thing they didn't spend much time on travelogue showiness. The interior of the house didn't lend itself to gripping visuals, although cinematographer Andrew Dunn ( L.A. Story) does good work. The upstairs/downstairs dichotomy so laboriously assembled by Julian Fellowes from an idea by Altman and Bob Balaban, wasn't much of a grabber, either. I didn't find the music to be anything of note, even though I've enjoyed Patrick Doyle's work before, especially Dead Again.
And onto this great heap of talent is also shoveled enough good actors for four or five comprehensible movies. Gosford Park cast is capable of excellence, but unless I knew them from something else, I have no idea now who they were. Stephen Fry and Ron Webster are the exception because their identities were self-contained and their occasional injections of comic relief were so welcome. The presence of Michael Gambon in period costume reminded me of Sleepy Hollow. Maggie Smith and Kelly Macdonald were both interesting, and they had enough screen time to know their characters a bit. The less said about Macdonald's appearance in Splendor the better, but she's pleasant and likable in this. As good as this performance is, I'd much rather be watching Smith in Murder by Death or even Sister Act. Bob Balaban has been good for drama in Clockwatchers and a hoot in Christopher Guest comedies like Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, but the extent of his acting range used in Gosford Park is standing around looking nervous and giving Americans a bad name. I'm not particularly happy that my litany of smile-inducing actors, still missing good people like Derek Jacobi, is for a movie that uses all of them so little.