This upstairs-downstairs comedy drama (2001), set in 1932 in an English country house, is probably Robert Altman’s most accomplished film since the 70s. Among its virtues are the discipline exercised by its fine English cast, a good script by Julian Fellowes (based on ideas by Altman and costar Bob Balaban) that incorporates certain aspects of Agatha Christie-style whodunit, and the interesting ground rule that no guest be shown unless a servant is present in the same scene. There are more characters of interest here than in Nashville, and an almost constantly moving camera (less noticeably employed than in The Long Goodbye) tends to objectify the relationships among them. Some of the most prominent are played by Eileen Atkins, Balaban (a Hollywood producer), Alan Bates (a butler), Charles Dance, Stephen Fry (a police inspector who impersonates Jacques Tati’s Mr. Hulot in garb and body language), Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Tom Hollander, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Jeremy Northam (real-life movie star and composer Ivor Novello), Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Watson.
2 hours 17 min • 2001