My feelings towards Robert Altman films are often very, very conflicted. For example, M*A*S*H* was a brilliant and subversive political comedy but there were times that there were so many people talking at once on screen (a common Altman tactic) that I wasn’t really sure who I was supposed to be listening to at any given moment. A Prairie Home Companion was a beautiful and understated comedy about the last days of the iconic radio program but it was so slow and droll at times that I questioned if it really deserved to be a movie. His most famous film of the 2000’s Gosford Park is another Altman film that has left me not knowing exactly how it is I felt about the film.

The film follows a weekend at the Gosford Park mansion owned by Lord William McCordle (Michael Gambon) where he is having a shooting party with a large group of other rich socialites. The film also, however, follows the lives of the very large group of servants living in the house or traveling with the other socialites. Much of the humor of the film comes from the dichotomy between these two distinct worlds. Towards the end of the film, it also becomes a murder mystery focusing on the murder of someone in the house (I won’t ruin who was murdered or the murderer was for the sake of preserving the suspense if anyone wants to watch it still).

The film’s cast is huge, and it may have been simply one of the best ensemble casts that I can think of. It’s basically a who’s who of fine British actors. Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristen Scott Thomas, Helen Mirren, Emily Watson, and a large group of others. The acting was absolutely spectacular which is par for the course of an Altman picture. Special mention has to go to Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. Maggie Smith stole every second she was on screen as a bitchy countess and Helen Mirren, as always, wowed as one of the head servants. Kelly MacDonald also did an absolutely stellar job as a maid as did Emily Watson. The acting and directing are really the biggest selling points of the film along with the cinematography and production values in terms of costume and set design. The film is beautifully shot and made.

The film has some serious problems though. It’s far, far too long. I felt a good 40 minutes of the film could have been cut and it would have been better for it. Also, the pacing can be absolutely dragging at times. It can get so boring. I kept looking at my watch wondering how much longer the film could possibly be. Fortunately, for the most part, the script is sharp and it tries to make up for its excessive length in that area. It’s an Altman film and the dialogue is always top notch. If you like mystery movies or period pieces, you should watch it. This movie probably isn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed it. I just wish it had been a lot shorter.

Final Score: B+

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