I speak, of course, of Robert Altman's Gosford Park.
It's been ages since I've seen it, though I remember enjoying it very much at the time. So this is as much a reminder to myself to re-watch it as is is a recommendation. Luckily, I feel that these two goals can co-exist quite nicely. ...unlike the people in this film, which is not entirely family-friendly (do mostly to language and subject matter), but which is a real treat for fans of the "drawing-room whodunit" that Christie perfected. Easily my favorite thing from Altman (and "Downton Abbey's" Julian Fellowes), and currently streaming on AMAZON PRIME and YOUTUBE($) and SOME OTHERS($).
As a hunting party gathers at the country estate, no one is aware that before the weekend is over, someone will be murdered twice! The police are baffled but the all seeing, all hearing servants know that almost everyone had a motive.
You can definitely see the Downton DNA in there, can't you? Even beyond the ever-wonderful and biting Maggie Smith. The "Upstairs vs. Downstairs" dynamic, in particular, reminds me of Fellowes' subsequent work. And the "Trouble Bubbling Under The Stuffy, Tradition-Bound Surface" stuff, as well. I could watch those wonderfully British staples forever, I think.
But my favorite parts are probably the things Altman brings to the project -- in many ways, in contrast to his usual tendencies. In the past, I've found him a bit mean. And I've often thought that his "cast of thousands"approach leaves one without much sense of the actual characters; too unfocused and wide-ranging for me. But in this film, I think Jonathan Rosenbaum's right on the money:
Critical consensus about any movie is impossible, but judging from end-of-the-year polls, Robert Altman’s Gosford Park is widely recognized as a masterpiece. Perhaps because the English period setting and the mainly English cast encouraged the septuagenarian Altman to curb many of his smart-alecky tendencies, he can finally be credited with something resembling a mature comedy-drama — that is to say, a measured and balanced one — for the first time since the 70s.
For all his many accomplishments, Altman sometimes doesn’t know when to stop underlining dramatic points, or exposing the silliness and vanity of his characters, or piling on miniplots. This makes it all the more impressive that he’s now given us a beautifully proportioned work in which 30 fairly well defined characters don’t seem excessive, most of the plot points aren’t hyped, and the director’s ridicule, while far from absent, isn’t allowed to dominate our own responses.