Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA/Germany/United Kingdom, 2001. Lions Gate Films, Dan Films, CP Medien AG, Erste, Zweite, Dritte, Vierte Cat’s Meow CbE, Munich, KC Medien. Screenplay by Steven Peros, based on his play. Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. Produced by Julie Baines, Kim Bieber, Carol Lewis, Dieter Meyer. Music by Ian Whitcomb. Production Design by Jean-Vincent Puzos. Costume Design by Caroline de Vivaise. Film Editing by Edward G. Norris.
It’s 1924, and publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) has invited a group of guests (celebrities and mortals alike), onto his giant yacht for an off-coast California weekend (in reality the exteriors were shot in Greece and the interiors in Berlin). His own personal jealousy of his mistress Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst) and her possible relationship with movie star Charles Chaplin (Eddie Izzard) is an obsession with him, and while the other guests whoop it up with contraband liquor and crazy dancing, he keeps his eyes hooked on the innocent pair (Chaplin definitely wanted Davies, but she refused him on the grounds of her affection for Hearst). To make a long story short, the trip ended in the death of producer William Ince (Cary Elwes), but the nature of the crime was one that was never fully investigated by the police and to this day remains mostly a mystery. The film makes a giant, credible inference as to the reason for the incident, fully involving the talented cast in the conundrum; Gosford Ship it’s not, however, as the characters overpower the story the way they did in Altman’s classic but without the indelible charm. The acting is perfect, ruled over by Dunst’s warm, intelligent and totally charismatic portrayal of Davies (the most flattering portrait of this extremely interesting woman yet seen on screen). Also a standout is Izzard’s brilliant portrayal of the Little Tramp (though not necessarily better than Robert Downey, Jr.’s in Chaplin), Jennifer Tilly as an awkward and green Louella Parsons and a perfectly cast Joanna Lumley as novelist Elinor Glyn (who narrates the picture). Anybody with the slightest bit of interest in the period or the characters involved will not want to miss a frame of this enjoyable and gorgeously designed movie.