What I Watched Last Night: “Gosford Park”

If you took Downton Abbey, set it roughly a decade later, and threw in a murder mystery, you would get a film like 2001’s Gosford Park. Not every character has a direct representation in the other, but there are enough similarities to where I found watching the movie a delightful way to spend the evening.

Constance: Tell me, what happened to William’s little maid? I never saw her again after that dinner.
Mary Maceachran: Elsie?
Constance: Hmm.
Mary Maceachran: She’s gone.
Constance: Aw, it’s a pity, really. I thought it was a good idea to have someone in the house who is actually sorry he’s dead.

First off, it even has Maggie Smith playing Countess Constance Trentham, who has so many great, cranky lines like her Dowager Countess Grantham character.

There’s also a supporting character named Lavinia, a daughter named Isobel, and even the film’s house interior resembles the television show.

Helen Mirren plays head housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson, the Downton-equivalent of Mrs. Hughes, and her performance is lovely and understated. There are a ton of other names you’d recognize as well – Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Emily Mortimer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kelly MacDonald – plus many actors whose names you might not remember, but you recall seeing them in other things. For example, Charles Dance plays Lord Stockbridge here, and he was also Mr. Tulkinghorn in Bleak House (and he’s on Game of Thrones).

Everyone has met at the house for a weekend of pheasant shooting and socializing, including actor Ivor Novello and Hollywood producer Morris Weissman. Weissman is producing a Charlie Chan film set in London, in which someone is murdered in an English manor. He’s there for research, and as “luck” would have it, Sir William McCordle turns up dead. Unlike the head of the Crawley family, Sir William is not well liked. Just about anyone had a reason to kill him.

The film is not campy in a Clue sort of way, though Stephen Fry’s investigator character is a bit silly, but the mystery is more akin to an Agatha Christie story. Overall, I really enjoyed watching Gosford Park, and should you be looking to fill a Downton-shaped hole in your life, perhaps this will hold you over until Series 3 premieres.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

6 replies on “What I Watched Last Night: “Gosford Park””

Julian Fellowes has written and produced this as well as Downton Abbey I believe . I just love the film because you pick up so much more on even a second viewing like the shocked looks Mrs Wilson and Mrs Croft exchange when Robert Parks enters and states his name. Also Clive Owen looks just delicious in the period clothing.

Yeah it was always one of those “I’ll watch it eventually” sort of movies for me, but the mister was out of town and I was trying to watch things that he wouldn’t care if I watched without him, so I decided to go with it. Yes, do try again! If for no other reason than Maggie Smith.

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