Love and Rivalry at Knebworth House
As various friends and members of the aristocracy come to stay at Sir Randolph Nettleby's (James Mason) for a weekend shoot the thought of the impending First World War is far from their minds as they enjoy the hospitality of the popular and respected Sir Randolph. But the tension between Lord Gilbert Hartlip (Edward Fox) and Lionel Stephens (Rupert Frazer) is beginning to simmer over as not just when it comes to the shoot but also when it comes to Hartlip's unfaithful wife. Also arriving and causing problems is Cornelius Cardew (John Gielgud) who opposes animal hunting and seeks to try and stop the shooting party which before the weekend is out will have had a devastating outcome.
There are some TV shows which I have never watched, one of those is "Downton Abbey" because watching the comings and going of the once well to do does nothing for me. But despite being very aware that "The Shooting Party" had that same sort of thing going on it was the calibre of the cast and te fact this was the final appearance of the great James Mason which persuaded me to watch. As such whilst the acting was entertaining I can't say the comings and goings, the rivalries and flirtations did much for me.
Now there are some interesting concepts at play in "The Shooting Party" none more so that observing the blissful ignorance of this elite bunch as they enjoy their lavish lifestyle unconcerned about the impending war or how their actions affect others. But we also have the difference between new aristocracy and old aristocracy as Sir Randolph has world weary wisdom going on whilst the younger men are competitive and very alpha male in their tendencies. The thing is that whilst there is drama which occurs during this weekend with an accident caused due to the rivalry between Hartlip and Stephens the laboured nature of this drama, the slowness of it all makes it hard work for those who are not fans of this sort of period drama.
But then the appeal to me was the cast, a collective of British actors which included John Gielgud, Robert Hardy and Gordon Jackson and all these actors deliver solid performances. But it is James Mason's final appearance which makes the movie for me as he embodies Sir Randolph with that sense of wisdom born from age. The way he observes the younger aristocrats locking horns like young bucks makes him smile whilst where once he might have been annoyed by a grand child's pet duck interfering with a social dinner now doesn't bother him. It is simply a beautiful and natural performance from the great James Mason and a big reason why during some of its more lethargic scenes kept me watching.
What this all boils down to is that "The Shooting Party" probably is entertaining for those who enjoy period dramas such as "Downton Abbey" and "Brideshead Revisited" but it is slow going for those who watch because of the cast rather than the story.