The Aristocrats Episode Two: This look at a year in the life of Goodwood is well-made but lacks any real story

by Matt D

The Aristocrats: Sunny, the Earl of Sunderland, Duke of Marlborough

In my review of last week’s instalment of The Aristocrats I criticised director Patrick Forbes for rushing the story of the Blenheim Palace family and felt that there was enough material for a two-part piece. I still feel this after watching the second instalment, in which Forbes recounts a year in the life of Goodwood, as there was nothing nearly as compelling as the father and son story from last week. To be fair Goodwood’s current owner and 11th Duke of March Charles Gordon-Lennox is an amiable chap who is how I imagine Hugh Grant would look if he were the lead in a Lloyd Grossman biopic. The documentary looks in detail at a year in the life of Goodwood’s many events and sees Charles and his staff trying to keep their heads above water.

Things start off in the summer of 2011 as newly appointed racecourse manager Adam Waterworth surveyed Goodwood ahead of that year’s Glorious event which usually brings a large amount of money for the estate. The event is especially prominent this time around as Adam has arranged for the top two horses in the country, Frankel and Camford Cliffs, to race each other a spectacle that has bought horse racing fans from far and wide. Through the preparation of Glorious we also see that the event is special for a lot of people from Seamus Buckley, who takes great pride in checking the conditions of the track, to Goodwood’s financial manager Alex Williamson who grew up around the event. Alex and Adam both realise that they need to rake in a good amount of cash to help out Goodwood which the latter describes as a monster that needs feeding constantly. Charles meanwhile is preparing for the regency ball, a part of Glorious which is just as possible, an event that has attracted a lot of publicity thanks to the participation of Courtney Love who we are told has a great affinity for the aristocracy. When she eventually turns up her entrance up on stage is greeted with some applause however once she starts chastising the audience she gets fed up and leaves the stage after three songs. As Courtney departed in her helicopter I bet the Duke was thinking something along the lines of ‘why didn’t we get James Blunt back again this year?’

Despite the Courtney Love debacle Glorious on the whole was a success however it seems that Goodwood’s main issues are coming from its farm which isn’t generating as much revenue as it should be. Throughout the course of the documentary we learn that the financial team are struggling to decide whether to keep all of the farm land in house or let it out for a bigger revenue. It appears as if Charles does like having the farm kept private as we see him with the animals while later he also shows concern when a mystery disease starts killing off all the lambs. Soon though it’s time for another event as The Festival of Speed, a weekend that Charles created when he wanted to bring back motor racing to Goodwood, came around brining a special guest in the form of motoring legend Sterling Moss. Charles appeared to be in his element here as he was eager to test drive a new turbo vehicle however he was never able to take it up to its full speed and he looked fairly dejected about this. The Festival of Speed though was another financial success for the estate meaning things were on the up and they were just getting better.

This was because Revival, Goodwood’s festival celebrating everything vintage, was around the corner and once again Charles was front and centre creating a space theme for the annual ball. Revival itself was a historical event as Charles was able to reopen his grandfather’s motor racing track while Prince Michael of Kent turned out to celebrate 50 years of the Jaguar E-Type. The Revival ball was a star-studded affair, I even spotted Rowan Atkinson in the crowd, however Charles struggled to get everybody to their seats to actually eat their dinner which upset him a little bit as he was supposed to be the Grand High Commander of the fake spaceship. His mood changed later after looking at how well Goodwood had done over the year and at the staff Christmas party he announced that Alex would be taking over as group MD so he could focus on other projects. These other projects namely seemed to be taking out-of-focus photos of trees and then exhibiting these pictures in order to sell them onto the public however Goodwood wasn’t far from the Duke’s heart. It appeared to me that Charles wasn’t completely comfortable letting someone take over all of his jobs so he often hovered in the background admitting that he never got a good night’s sleep because if this happened he wouldn’t be doing his job right.

At times this week’s instalment of The Aristocrats really felt like a promotional video for the Goodwood Estate and in particular the events that they hold throughout the year. I have to say once again director Patrick Forbes’ film is slickly produced and everything that goes on at Goodwood looks like tremendous fun even though I know it will cost a pretty penny. I found though that there was very little story here outside of the ‘we need to make some more money this year’ plot which wasn’t anywhere nearly as engaging as the father/son struggle from last week. The one thing this episode had was that it’s central figure was more amiable and I definitely enjoyed Charles’ one-liners and the way he threw himself into his work. There were still a lot of unanswered questions here I personally would’ve liked to have known more about the farm and also about the Duke’s family life as we were given very little personal information in this film. Overall I found this Goodwood documentary all style but no substance and really would’ve preferred the Blenheim Palace saga to have been a two-part piece as that at least had an interesting story running throughout it.

What did you think to this Goodwood documentary? Did you enjoy it more than I did? Leave Your Comments Below.