In GOSFORD PARK, Robert Altman explores the English class system and master-servant relations via his preferred modus operandi of multiple characters and intertwining storylines, which he achieved so brilliantly in NASHVILLE. Featuring an all-star British ensemble cast, the film recalls both THE RULES OF THE GAME and THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, with a midpoint shift to an Agatha Christie whodunit. In November 1932, a phalanx of moneyed guests arrives for a weekend shooting party at the estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas). Mary (Kelly Macdonald), a fresh-faced, nave new maid accompanies the sniping Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith), and is shown the ropes by the house's worldly head housemaid, Elsie (Emily Watson). While the masters engage in various financial and sexual intrigues upstairs, the world downstairs has its own curiosities--namely, the predatory valet to a Hollywood producer, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillippe), and the mysterious, cagey servant, Robert Parks (Clive Owen). Mary soon discovers that the image of servants living vicariously through their masters is a false one, and that the upstairs-downstairs worlds are often shockingly interwoven. With GOSFORD PARK, Altman delivers a fascinating, blackly comic look at the treacherous yet poignant gamesmanship between the classes.
Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay 2001 Julian Fellowes