|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Tea at four
Dinner at eight
Murder at midnight
2001 film directed by Robert Altman, set in a large country house in 1930s Britain.
Sir William, a rich guy, invites some more of his rich guy friends to a hunting trip at Gosford Park. They also bring all their servants.
A few days later, Sir William gets murdered.
More than just a basic murder mystery story, Gosford Park focuses more on the servants (so much so, there's one in literally every scene) and the division between both ends of the British class system than the rich murdered guy and his rich "friends". The whodunnit plot is used as a device to examine the characters and their relationships with one another, and as a reason for the film to come to an end.
Many of the scenes feature the ensemble improvising dialogue in character, and since the camera is seldom still, the audience drifts from conversation to conversation like an eavesdropper. There are also a lot of sub-plots, which would take forever to cover here.
- All-Star Cast. Definitely.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Not evil, as such, just vapid, brainless and arrogant.
- Asshole Victim: Sir William, obviously.
- Blackmail: Mr. Nesbitt blackmails Isobel by threatening to tell her parents some secret (possibly that they had sex) unless Isobel convinces Sir William to give Nesbitt a job.
- Very close attention to off-hand dialogue suggests the secret is that Freddie Nesbitt made Isobel pregnant, and that she subsequently had an abortion.
- British Accents
- The Butler Did It: Invoked and Averted.
- Butt Monkey: Mabel Nesbitt. Everyone makes fun of her poor taste in fashion, and the fact that she only brought one evening dress. And Denton to the servants after they find out what he really is.
- Casanova: Sir William courted female workers of his factory, often getting them pregnant and then forcing them to either give up their baby to keep their job or to let them keep the baby and then fire the woman.
- Closed Circle: After the murder, none of the guests are allowed to leave.
- Contrived Clumsiness: After a man posing as a servant reveals himself to be an actor and moves from "below stairs" to "above stairs". To punish him for his deception, the butler spills hot coffee in his lap. His fellow servants quickly hide their smiles, fellow nobs shrug and keep on keeping on.
- Cultural Stereotypes: The wealthy. Specifically, the titled wealthy; all but a handful of the Upstairs characters are absolutely awful people and dicks of the highest order (and those Upstairs characters who are more likable tend to also be of 'lower' station). That said, the Downstairs characters aren't exactly pure as driven snow, but we're clearly encouraged to sympathise with them a bit more.
- Dangerous Deserter: Completely averted with Jennings, who lives with shame because of it. When Dexter eventually finds out, he doesn't rub it in his face and tries to comfort him with something along the lines of "not everyone was born to fight a war".
- Deconstruction: Of Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries which take place in grand, aristocratic circles and focus on very wealthy and important people. The plot prefers instead to focus on the relationships between these people and their servants and play with several of the common character types who appear in these stories, with the actual murder being more of a background event. Also, the detective is a blundering incompetent who ignores or destroys important evidence; it's suggested that because of this, Sir William's murderer will never be identified.
- Did You Think I Can't Feel?
- The Ditz: Anyone who knows how the police are supposed to inspect crimes should know that Inspector Thompson clearly does not know how to do his job. His assistant on the other hand...
- Dysfunctional Family: The McCordles are one big happy family. Well, if you ignore Sir William's affairs, Lady Sylvia's affairs, and, for that matter, the likelihood that their daughter is having an affair. Not to mention Lady Sylvia's contempt for her child.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: To the audience, anyway. There are murder weapons (bottle of poison, etc) all over the house. Quite often, the camera cheekily lingers on them when they're in shot.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting
- Gold Digger: Freddie Nesbitt to his wife, Mabel; Rupert Standish is trying it with Isobel. Also, with the exception of the Stockbridges and Weismann's group, this is the real reason the guests are there: they all want money from Sir William, either though business deals, charity or blackmail.
- Historical Domain Character: Ivor Novello was an accomplished and much-loved movie star and songwriter in his time. The songs the character performs during the film are some of his most famous, although the real Novello reportly considered his own voice very poor. The Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting and composing (The Ivors) are named after him. There is a statue of him near Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff.
- Idle Rich: Most of the "upstairs" cast.
- Jerkass: Just about everyone in the Upstairs, with some exceptions.
- Kick the Dog: Literally, by Lady Sylvia.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Have you read the article above?
- The Mole: Denton acts as one of the servants when he is really an American actor that spied on the Downstairs for research for Weissman. He tells Jennings, and the word spreads in the Downstairs, causing all the servants to hate him.
- Mysterious Past: Parks, Mrs. Wilson, and, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Croft. It's all revealed near the end.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers and posters for the film made it seem like a somewhat lighthearted Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, when in fact the murder doesn't happen until very late in the film, is resolved just as quickly, and could hardly be called the focus of the film anyway.
- No Ending: Only the murder plot and a few others are concluded. All of the other plots are left up in the air, including Isobel's heavily-implied pregnancy and the altered relationship between Mabel and Freddie.
- The other resolved plots include Isobel standing up to her blackmailer and sending him packing, Colonel Meredith fixing up his relationship with his wife (though his business venture does seem kaput) and Elsie (it's heavily implied) manages to go into show business.
- No Hero to His Valet: Cleverly invoked and subverted, since Sir William's valet, Probert, just adores him.
- Not So Harmless: What Thompson thinks of the servants when he investigates. Boy, was he wrong.
- Not Now, Kiddo:
Constable Dexter: Sir, someone's traipsed a load of mud in down here.
Inspector Thompson: Not now, Dexter, please.
- One-Scene Wonder: Inspector Thompson
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Why Mary realizes that there's something off with Denton.
- Parental Abandonment: Mrs. Wilson, but under duress.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Upstairs is somewhere between this and Cosy Catastrophe. Even after the discovery that Sir William wasn't murdered by a burgler but instead poisoned by someone else in the house, no-one seems particularly concerned. It helps that everyone hated him, of course.
- Straight Gay: Novello, Weissman, and (probably) Arthur.
- The Alcoholic: Jennings.
- The Reveal: A lot of things are revealed in the end. Mary deduces a lot of the murder, and Parks and Mrs. Wilson fill in the rest for her.
- Running Gag: Inspector Thompson being interrupted every time he tries to introduce himself.
- Unrequited Love: Dorothy towards Jennings, who is very reluctant. This leads to her giving Colonel Meredith the following, epiphany inducing and love affirming revelation.
Dorothy: I believe in love. Not just getting it, but giving it. I think that if you're able to love someone, even if they don't know it, even if they can't love you back, then it's worth it.