My wife and a friend of ours and I saw Robert Altman’s latest film, Gosford Park today. She liked it, I wasn’t as crazy about it, but it was a reasonably pleasant couple of hours. The film, set in 1932, is nominally about a Hollywood producer and (English acting legend) Ivor Norvello, a spending a country weekend with a cast of snobs and servants almost all of whom are straight out of central casting.
Very good writing but, what’s odd for an Altman film is how embalmed everyone seems to be. Altman takes a staggering assortment of British talent (Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Derek Jacobi, etc.) and pretty much wastes their acting skills buy having everyone underplay their parts so much that they seem underwater–their movements and gestures are that slow. This would have been a much more enjoyable film had it been made by Hollywood in the 1930s or 40s, with say, Cary Grant, David Niven, Leslie Howard, and other British actors being directed with some energy and speed by Michael Curtiz.
Of course, I’m probably biased. I listened to Altman’s incredible whining about America on his M*A*S*H DVD commentary, and read James Bowman’s review of Gosford Park:
I reckon that it has been at least 40 years since an aristocrat of the silver screen has been anything but a thorough rotter and a cad. You have only to call a character Lord something- or-other and your audience knows immediately what to think of him. Why don