Category: Kristin Scott Thomas

Gosford Park (2001 Movie)

4 Kernels

An Appetizer for Downton Abbey
 by Julian Fellowes

Stars:  Maggie Smith, Jeremy Northam, Michael Gambon,
Kristin Scott Thomas, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, and Plenty of Others

All right, listen up all you Downton Abbey fans.  If you’re going through withdrawals, you need to head over to Netflix or Amazon and stream Gosford Park.  This is another goodie written by the author of Downton, none other than Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for this tale of upstairs, downstairs, with a who-done-it murder.

I haven’t watched this movie probably in 10 years.  Recently, I clicked play and was amazed at the similarities to Downton Abbey.  Julian has really recycled quite of bit of wit and charm from his former work.  If you watched it ten years ago, you may wish to dust it off once more.  Otherwise, if you haven’t seen it, you’ll enjoy the story.

The drama is set in 1932 and centers around a party in a country house in England. In scene one all the aristocratic guests arrive, accompanied by their various valets and ladies maids.  The rich head upstairs; the servants head downstairs.  In the lower level you’ll be surprised at the similarities of running a grand house with the head housekeeper and butler keeping everyone in line hiding their own dirty secrets. The usual bantering, jealousies, complaining, and sneaks are just as interesting as Downton, only shoved into a two-hour movie.

The upstairs are the usual aristocrats, and wonderful Maggie Smith is among them playing almost the same characteristics as she does in Downton Abbey.  I’m not surprise that Julian Fellowes continued her character almost identically.  One of her lines, which sounds just like the Dowager on Downton, is, “Me?  I haven’t a snobbish bone in my body.” Her character of Countess Trentham is quite enjoyable and filled with the same witty banter.

Of course, the house is filled with multiple guests, servants, and a murder of the stuffy and grumpy old Sir William McCordle, who is married to the much younger and annoying Lady Syliva McCordle. Their children and their guests make up an eclectic group of snobby aristocrats, an actor, and a film maker from California. The servants gossip about their employers, and Countess Trentham asks her ladies maid to tell her what the scoop is downstairs.  Sir William has been enjoying sexual encounters with his multiple maids in the dark corners of downstairs, bearing all sorts of illegitimate children. After dinner one evening, someone stabs Sir William, and the movie turns into the usual who-done-it search for the killer with a less than capable investigator.

I have a few favorite scenes, one of which is Jeremy Northam, who plays Ivor Novello, the movie star.  He sits at the piano and sings a variety of songs to swoon by with his dreamy velvet voice, while the guests play a game of bridge, drink, and relax after dinner uninterested. The servants enjoy the entertainment more than the stuffy guests and linger closely by to hear him sing as if they are starved to hear beautiful music.

The film itself won quite a few awards and was nominated for best picture at the Oscars, but did not win, but won plenty of accolades worldwide.  I think it really is a noteworthy two hours to watch now that we’re so caught up in Downton Abbey as written by Julian Fellowes. You’ll no doubt enjoy the world downstairs and upstairs, including the estranged aristocratic family and eclectic mixture of servants.  Many of them had reason to do Sir William in with a knife in his chest, but you’ll probably not realize who did it until the end with the surprising little twist.

Bel Ami (2012)

2 Kernels

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci

Type: Movie

 

Bel Ami is a fairly new film I recently watched on Amazon Instant Video. It apparently had a very limited release at the same time in June of 2012, and is schedule to go straight to DVD this August. The movie is pretty much a “Rotten Tomato” on a lot of review sites, and frankly I have to concur. It’s based on the 1885 French novel of the same name by Guy de Maupassant, which I have not read.

There are movies that can be visually stimulating, filled with stunning costumes, big-named stars, and yet sorely lack the basic elements to make it memorable. I think Bel Ami suffers two-fold, in that (1) Robert Pattinson doesn’t carry the central character’s role well enough to make it a noteworthy performance, and (2) the story revolves around a very unlikeable character. The two combined makes it a lethal combination. Perhaps if Duroy would have been cast with a different actor, it may have saved the film. I’m sorry to be so harsh on the heart throb Pattinson, but he just didn’t fit the character’s role other than physical looks.

On the other hand, let’s face it, Duroy is not a character you really fall in love with anyway, if you know anything about the story. Oh, yes, he’s attractive, sexy, dreamy-eyed, able to seduce women with a single sly grin and embodies everything you want in bed from a tender lover to a rough aggressive bad boy–take your pick. He has the stamina of a deer in rut bedding two different women in a matter of mere hours.

You learn the following about his character, besides his inability to keep his manhood in check, that he grew up poor, isn’t very bright, and isn’t respected by other men. You quickly learn that he doesn’t possess much of a conscious or a heart, and uses the lives of others for his own gain. Hence the term “scoundrel” or Bel Ami.

The one thing that struck me about the story is that your not privy to the inward thoughts of Duroy or his motivations. You watch his dark brooding, drunken binges, his narrowing gaze, and outbursts of anger and make your own conclusion as to what makes him tick as a man. Besides being a morally loose rake, with no conscience bedding three women at once, he comes across as a relatively ignorant and despised man in his social circle.

Finally, at the end of the movie, you are suddenly given a glimpse into the deep musings and inward workings of his dark heart. It’s here that he reveals it’s not enough to be loved. He doesn’t want to scrape through life, like his father in poverty, while praying for a better life in the next world. There is no next world. We rot in the grave. Better to grab it in the here and now rather than to hope for something that will never come. Of course, as a scoundrel, that’s the only way he knows how to gain what he wants in life. His final conquest is to marry a woman he doesn’t love (and I seriously doubt the man has the capacity to love), so he can live rich at the hand of her father’s money, who he despises. I probably should take lessons from this sod on how to create a despicable male characters in my next book (though some think I did well with the last one).

Well, like millions of Parisians of that day, he probably would have contracted syphilis anyway and died an early death never able to enjoy his gain. Wealth he would have obtained, but respect and status would never arrive, which frankly are the riches the man really wants but doesn’t realize.

The three ladies he beds are all characters of their own sort. His first wife uses him, as he uses her, and is an adulterer from the very beginning (played brilliantly by Uma Thurman). The second woman (played by Christina Ricci), married as well, loves Duroy in spite of the ass that he is and continues to do so after he marries again for money. The older woman (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), who falls for his charms and is married to his nemesis, he seduces just to sully what the man owns. He doesn’t give a damn about her, and discards her like trash when the deed is done by marrying her daughter instead.

In any event, the movie is a mixed bag because of the story and unlovable character you really don’t want to romp in the sack with at all. Of course, you may just want to watch the movie for eye candy sake, but for mentality sake, there won’t be much else to feed the brain cells.

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