Downton Abbey: A New Era

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

“There are few better ways to spend a cloudy, dull Sunday afternoon than sitting in the cinema tucking in to a nice comforting slice of Downton Abbey. ‘Life is like a twisting turning novel,’ one of the characters says wistfully, and that’s one of Downton’s charms; nice pithy little pearls of wisdom that warm the heart – a little cheesy – bit it’s roule rather than stringy cheese … There are lots of laughs, not belly laughs, but little laugh-out-loud chuckles and also a few ‘lump in the throat’ moments. Because it’s all about the characters and their evolving relationships – that’s what we really care about; births, romance, engagements, marriage and the changing of the guard.

“It’s rather fitting that Downton has gone cinematic rather than limping along in endless streaming seasons and it’s impressive that it’s made the leap successfully (as very few tv series do) …”

So writes one fan.

“Better than the first movie,” writes another.

“Beautiful,” sighs a third.

“A sheer joy,” eulogized yet another.

“Hopefully onto a trilogy,” adds a wistful follower.

Yes, these are fans rhapsodizing about the latest movie – “Downton Abbey: A New Era” – based on the popular British TV show of the similar name.

As you will recall, this six-season historical drama was set in the fictional Yorklshire county estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1926. It follows the upstairs-downstairs lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era – referencing such events as the sinking of the Titanic, the outbreak of World War I, the Teapot Dome Scandal, and the gradual decline of the British aristocracy.

The stint on the telly was followed by a movie – also called “Downton Abbey” – depicting a visit by King George V and Queen Mary.

Now we have a second film that most fans hail as “the best yet!”

Like the series, the two movies star the same familiar faces. Leading the pack is Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham, with Elizabeth McGovern as his wife Cora, Countess of Grantham. And, of course, Maggie Smith as Robert’s mother Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.

Also among the Crawley family and friends you will find Michele Dockery, Samantha Bond, Penelope Wilton, Harry Hadden-Paton, Imelda Staunton, David Robb, and Allen Leech.

Representing the domestic staff are Jim Carter as the butler, Phyllis Logan as the housekeeper, and Robert James-Collier as the valet. Others include Brendan Coyle, Raquel Cassidy, Joanne Froggatt, Michael C. Fox, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, and Kevin Doyle.

Rounding out the cast in this new era epic are Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Jonathan Zaccai, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West.

I know, I know. You love them all.

In this latest (and possibly last) film, we have two storylines.

In the first, the Crawley family learns that Violet (Maggie Smith) has inherited a French villa. Some of them travel to France to view the place, in the process learning about Violet’s past and all the things she’s been hiding.

In the second, young relatives – to the chagrin of older members of the family – rent out the mansion and estate to a crew of “talkie” filmmakers. This plotline owes a lot to “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Directed by Simon Curtis (“Goodbye Christopher Robin,” “My Week with Marilyn”), the intertwined stories jump back and forth between the many characters. This could be a bit confusing, but screenwriter Julian Fellowes manages to hold it together, bringing everything to a proper conclusion at the end.

In short, “Downton Abbey: A New Era” is about the clash between the old and the new – elders versus youth, tradition versus innovation, social change, and the changing of the guard.

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