REVIEW: GOSFORD PARK

CAST
Maggie Smith (Clash of The Titans)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible)
Camilla Rutherford (Rome)
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)
Clive Owen (Sin City)
Helen Mirren (Red)
Geraldine Somerville (Harry Potter)
Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions)
Emily Watson (Red Dragon)
Tom Hollander (Valkyrie)
Stephen Fry (Bones)
Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Natasha Wightman (V For Vendetta)
Jeremy Northan (The Net)
Bob Balaban (The Monuments Men)
Trent Ford (The Vampire Diaries)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
Alan Bates (The Sum of All Fears)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Richard E. Grant (Dracula)
Ryan Phillippe and Kristin Scott Thomas in Gosford Park (2001)
In November 1932, Constance, Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith), and her lady’s maid, Mary MacEachran (Kelly Macdonald) travel to Gosford Park for the weekend. On the way, they encounter actor Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), American film producer Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban) and Weissman’s valet, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillippe). At the house, they are greeted by Lady Trentham’s niece Lady Sylvia McCordle (Kristin Scott Thomas), her husband Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), and their daughter, Isobel (Camilla Rutherford). The other guests include Lady Sylvia’s sisters, Louisa, Lady Stockbridge (Geraldine Somerville) and Lady Lavinia Meredith (Natasha Wightman) and their husbands, Raymond, Lord Stockbridge (Charles Dance) and Commander Anthony Meredith (Tom Hollander). Also in attendance are the Honourable Freddie Nesbitt (James Wilby) and his wife, Mabel (Claudie Blakley); Isobel’s suitor, Lord Rupert Standish (Laurence Fox) and his friend Jeremy Blond (Trent Ford).
Commander Meredith is in financial difficulty and brings up the matter with Sir William, who reveals that he is rescinding his investment in Meredith’s new business scheme. Sir William also reveals privately to Lady Sylvia that he may stop paying Lady Trentham’s allowance. Mary and Lord Stockbridge’s valet, Parks (Clive Owen), are attracted to one another and exchange pleasantries. Denton asks a number of questions about life in service and Parks reveals that he was brought up in an orphanage. Denton meets Lady Sylvia and during the night, he goes to her room.
The next morning the men go out early on a pheasant shoot, and Sir William is slightly injured by a low shot. Later, the ladies join the gentlemen for an outdoor luncheon on the estate grounds, where Commander Meredith pleads with Sir William to not back out of the investment, breaking decorum by grabbing Sir William’s arm and causing him to shatter his cocktail glass on the ground. While dressing for dinner, Lady Trentham and Mary are visited by Lady Sylvia, who reveals that Sir William is in a terrible mood with all of his guests after the events of the weekend and that he may stop paying his wife’s aunt her allowance. Lady Trentham is upset by this, and tersely tells Mary to be discreet about this unwelcome news (after having encouraged her to share downstairs gossip about the other guests).
Dinner that evening is tense and sombre, with the announcement that Commander Meredith will be leaving in the morning and that he now must prepare for bankruptcy thanks in part to Sir William’s withdrawal of his investment—news to which Sir William reacts with callous indifference. As the conversation progresses, tempers flare and Lady Sylvia attacks Sir William, implying that he was a First World War profiteer. The head housemaid, Elsie (Emily Watson), rises to his defence, breaking the class barrier, and thus revealing her affair with Sir William to everyone at the table. Everyone watches in shocked silence at this indiscretion, and Elsie hurries from the room—knowing that she will be dismissed.  Sir William abruptly storms away from the dinner table and goes to the library, where the housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren) brings him coffee. He demands a glass of whisky instead.
Kristin Scott Thomas and Stephen Fry in Gosford Park (2001)
Lady Sylvia asks Mr. Novello to entertain the guests. George (Richard E. Grant, first footman), Parks, Mr. Nesbitt and Commander Meredith disappear and an unknown person goes to the library and stabs Sir William as he sits slumped in his chair. Minutes later, Lady Stockbridge goes to the library to entice Sir William to return to the party and her screams bring everyone to the room. Commander Meredith and Mr. Nesbitt do not offer an explanation of their disappearances, while George says he was fetching milk for the coffee service and Parks claims to have been fetching hot water bottles. Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) and Constable Dexter (Ron Webster) arrive to investigate the murder. Dexter suggests that Sir William was already dead when he was stabbed. It is eventually surmised that Sir William was poisoned before being stabbed. Denton confesses to Jennings (Alan Bates), the butler, that he is not a valet but an American actor preparing for a film role. The next morning, Lady Sylvia goes for her usual morning ride, which surprises Inspector Thompson. Barnes (Adrian Scarborough) overhears Commander Meredith tell Lady Lavinia that Sir William’s death was lucky for them, as the investment is now secure. Barnes tells Inspector Thompson, who interrogates Meredith.
Mrs. Croft (Eileen Atkins) tells the kitchen maid, Bertha (Teresa Churcher), that Sir William was known for seducing the women working in his factories. If a woman became pregnant, Sir William offered two choices: keep the baby and lose your job, or give the baby up and keep your job. Those who gave up their babies were told that the adoptions were being arranged with good families. In reality, Sir William paid squalid orphanages to take the children. Mary goes to Parks’ room and tells him that she knows he is the murderer. Parks tells her that he discovered Sir William was his father, entered service and attempted to gain employment with someone in his circle. Parks tells Mary that he did not poison Sir William and Mary is relieved, as Parks only stabbed the corpse. Mary listens to Lady Sylvia and Lady Constance discussing why Mrs. Croft and Mrs. Wilson are enemies. Lady Sylvia believes that the tension between them stems from the fact that Mrs. Wilson now outranks Mrs. Croft. Lady Constance asks if Mrs. Wilson was ever married and Lady Sylvia replies that her name was once Parks or Parker. Mary goes to Mrs. Wilson and the older woman reveals that she poisoned Sir William to protect her son, because she knew that Parks was there to kill Sir William. She also reveals that she and Mrs. Croft are sisters. After talking to Dorothy (Sophie Thompson), Mrs. Wilson goes to her room distraught and is comforted by Mrs. Croft.
The guests drive away with the dismissed Elsie joining them, though she has taken an unusual souvenir from the house — Sir William’s pet dog. Lady Sylvia waves good-bye to her guests and re-enters Gosford Park, while Jennings closes the doors.
Superbly written with a twist in the tale well worth two hours of anyones time hugely entertaining

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