The much anticipated film version of Julian Fellowes’ “Downton Abbey” has arrived, directed by Michael Engler (“The Chaperone”). It is right where the series left off in 1927 and the Abbey has just received word to its owners’ disbelief that King George (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are coming to stay one night. The house of Crawley is up in arms.
Lady Talbot (Michelle Dockery) co-owner of Downton makes haste to Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) the retired butler for failsafe aid. He assures her that he will be at Downton first thing the next morning. Lady Talbot is relieved.
But unbeknownst to the staff, The Queen has her own unit to accompany her during her visit: a stuffy butler (David Haig), a supercilious chef (Philippe Spall) and a very harsh head of housekeeping (Richenda Carey).
The capable Downton staff is affronted. They agree to meet in the cellar to plan to take control.
To make matters worse, Violet (Maggie Smith) is in a family battle with Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) over an heir. And to knot things further, there is a mysterious arrogant man (Stephen Campbell Moore) who wants to ingratiate himself with Tom (Allen Leech).
To top affairs, there is a kleptomaniac at large, a torrential storm and no functioning hot water for guests, royal or otherwise.
There are plenty of rich appointments to look at, combined with intrigue, (albeit soapish) that will justly satisfy the show’s loyal fans. Stephen Campbell Moore does a good turn as the eerie man. There is a compelling subplot involving Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) taken to a secret club.
By film’s end, the melodrama is a bit too buttoned up with a collar in an all’s-well-that-end’s-well upper lip, but the charisma of the beloved characters and the fluid visual design make the film “Downton Abbey” a swiftly pleasant idyll.
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