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Ryan Phillipe in Gosford Park

July 2002                                                         SITE MAP   SEARCH
Gosford Park
cast: Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Maggie Smith, Charles Dance, and Geraldine Somerville

director: Robert Altman

137 minutes (15) 2001
EV VHS rental [released 8 July]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jen Johnston
Some movies you love instantly. Movies like The Lord Of The Rings and
A Beautiful Mind left an incredible impression on cinemagoers. Whether you were touched by John Nash's struggles with life, or exhilarated by Frodo's quest for good, you talked about these movies for days. (At least I did.) Some movies you detest instantly. Movies like Birthday Girl and Crossroads fade from your mind as fast as your annoyance at having to shell out the money for admission. And some leave an impression that improves the more you think on them.
   Blackhawk Down and Moulin Rouge fall into that category. They are so unique that it takes the brain a while to muddle through what you actually think of them. When you reach the end of the fog you tend to have figured out just how sparkling these particular films were. Gosford Park falls into this category.
   Gosford Park is a marvellously constructed, multi-layered, gentle mystery involving an eclectic group of high society members out for a hunting party. Problems evolve when a wealthy patriarch is taken off the guest list. Permanently. This is a movie that makes me root for the creation of a 'best ensemble cast' category at the Academy Awards, because Gosford Park would certainly be deserving such an award. Out of all the amazing performances there are three that will most likely garner the most attention - Ryan Phillipe, Clive Owen, and Emily Watson.
   Ryan Phillipe (Cruel Intentions) plays Henry Denton, an aspiring actor due to assume the role of a butler in an American film, and who is on this hunting party to observe the staff of the estate in action. As the quiet newcomer to the business he strives to fit in, though as every member of the help notices that he is fairly amateurish in the manner in which he approaches his duties, and that "his accent's off. There's no way he's Scottish." When he is revealed to be merely an actor spying on them, his character (much to his surprise) is shunned, by the staff and household elite alike, lending an endearing sense of innocence to the portrayal. Phillipe keeps showing a glimmer of becoming the next John Malkovich. He's got all of Malkovich's fire and intensity, but keeps choosing to take roles in teen films. Gosford Park is definitely a leap in the right direction for him.
   With the current trend of importing British talents for Hollywood, I can only hope that the right casting director is going to notice Clive Owen. In the role of the mysterious Robert Parks, Owen shines. He gives a performance on par with that of Anthony Hopkins in Remains Of The Day, a good-hearted man, with a secret agenda. Owen, through minimising his actions, has an ability to allow his inner emotions to shine through with merely a glance, or the inflection in his voice.
   Emily Watson (Breaking The Waves) is wonderful in the role of the discreet housemaid Elsie. You find yourself wanting to sit down and have tea with her character. She is outspoken, and brave (considering the era this film is set in, of course), and Elsie is an absolutely fantastic role that Watson does everything imaginable with.
   On first viewing, Gosford Park doesn't feel like anything truly out of the ordinary. After a few days of not being able to get the scenery or characters out of your head, you do begin to realise just how well crafted it really is, with attention being paid to every detail from the patterns on the china plates, to the costumes of the ladies of the house. The set-up to the main event is a bit too long, but every performance is exquisite. This is a classy period piece and is absolutely beautiful to watch. As it's without the flash of Lord Of The Rings and the heroism of A Beautiful Mind, I expect it will get shut out of the final list of winners at the Oscars this year, but for my money it's well worth the spot it obtained.

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