Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Julian Fellowes
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillipe
My Advice: Wait for MST3K.
Sir William (Michael Gambon) is having a shooting party, and a slew of people are invited. Some are there because they want something from him, some are there because they merely want to be seen there. Some, like Hollywood producer Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban) are there for research. But all of them, all 15,326 of the cast members we're presented with, have some business there be they high society or lowly servants. And unfortunately, nothing that they have to say or do is the least bit interesting.
I believe in this film we've found the ultimate cure for insomnia, because the most suspense you get out of the thing is whether you can stay conscious through the grueling two-hours-plus running time. The normal things one would do during a murder mystery that bills itself as some kind of comedy--you know, laugh or be held in suspense--don't seem to happen here. Nor is there any real question as to whodunit and why, because it's all lovingly spelled out in some of the few scenes to feel like they were actually written and not improvised badly.
I guess you could make a drinking game out of it. You could take a swig every time somebody comes on screen and you have no idea who they are or what their purpose in the film is. You could also take two swigs every time a great British actor is woefully misused. Derek Jacobi, Alan Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles Dance--totally and completely given nothing whatsoever to do. In fact, you could have traded out the entire roster of actors for a cadre of unknowns and gotten virtually the same film. This holds true with two exceptions: Maggie Smith, who actually gets a few good moments, and Ryan Phillipe, who would have gotten more respect for this film but his subplot's outcome is easy to guess from the moment he opens his mouth.
Ultimately, it's the pointlessness of the film that's the most debilitating (and making one in need of serious alcohol). Somebody dies, nobody in the house cares, so we sure as hell don't care. Hell, I had forgotten the dead person's name. I think a score card is needed for attempting to watch this film. In fact, make it a Yahtzee score card and go play the game instead of wasting your time on this unrelenting snoozer. You'll thank me.
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