A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gosford Park has sexual references and situations (briefly graphic), including adultery, a hint of a homosexual relationship, and an attempted molestation. There is some strong language and a character is murdered by poisoning and stabbed afterward. Accurate to the period, characters smoke and drink heavily.
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What's the story?
Set in the 1930s, GOSFORD PARK takes place at the home of Sir William (Michael Gambon) and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who invite an array of guests for a weekend at their lavish country estate. Among the guests are "old money" Lady Constance (Maggie Smith), early screen idol Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), and Hollywood film producer Morris Weisman (Bob Balaban), who tags along to take notes on the place for a Charlie Chan movie. Secrets abound amongst the upper crust, while gossip swirls in the quarters of the regimented servants (Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe, Emily Watson, and Clive Owen, among others). When Sir William is murdered, what ensues is a cross between Upstairs Downstairs, an Agatha Christie murder mystery, and a game of Clue. The estate becomes the setting for intrigue, romance, ambition, betrayal, and revenge, with the many overlapping and intersecting storylines revealing a cautionary tale about class, secrets, money, sex, and love.
Is it any good?
As in his best movies, director Robert Altman masterfully handles a dozen overlapping and intersecting storylines. Somewhere in the midst, there is a murder, but its resolution is incidental to the many other revelations and confrontations.
The Oscar-winning script is superb, but the movie is mostly a banquet of magnificent performances by most of England's finest performers. The Collector's edition DVD has outstanding extras, including commentary by the director, production designer, producer, and screenwriter, deleted scenes, and a Q&A session with the film-makers. Strongly recommended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how each of the different characters fits into the overall story. Which characters do you sympathize with the most? Which do you dislike the most?
Who in the film actually cares about Sir William? Why?
Why was it so important to be the "perfect servant"? What will happen to each of the characters in 10 years?
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