Thursday, September 26, 2019

Stubs - Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey (2019) Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton Directed by Michael Engler. Screenplay by Julian Fellowes. Based on the television series Downton Abbey created by Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame. Produced by Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge Run time: 122 minutes United Kingdom Historical period, Drama

For fans of the British TV series Downton Abbey, hearing in 2018 that they were going to make a film with most of the original cast returning was music to their ears. That film, which opened on September 20, 2019, was that weekend’s number one film at the US box-office, showing the show's popularity three years after it went off the air.

Set in 1927, the film takes place sometime after the series. This time, King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine Jones) announce they are coming to the Crawley home for a visit as part of their tour of the region. The entire manor preps for the visit, with the staff, nearly coming to blows with the Royal household staff, led by Mr. Wilson (David Haig), who carries his title as Page of the Backstairs very seriously. The entire staff acts as though they are on the same level as those they serve, regarding the Downton Abbey staff, led by a returning Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and his wife Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), as inferior.

Lord (Hugh Bonneville) and Lady (Elizabeth McGovern) Grantham.

The Crawley family, led by Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), are somewhat oblivious to their staff’s conflicts but have their own issues. Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) feels the pressure as the running of the manor and the planning of the festivities falls down around her shoulders, while her husband Henry (Matthew Goode) is away in America.

The household staff waits at attention for the arrival of the King and Queen of England.

The film picks up sort of where the series left off with the relationships, both upstairs and downstairs, developed during its run playing out pretty much like they had always been. Chief among them is the sarcastic wordplay going on between Violet and Isobel, Lady Merton (Penelope Wilson). The two elder women even join forces to confront their cousin Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), the Queen’s Lady-in-waiting, about the status of her estate.

There are too many characters to talk about without giving away too much of the plot but if they were a favorite of yours during the last season, be sure that they get some sort of scene in this film, though some get much less screen time than others. But characters like Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) and Tom Branson (Allen Leech) get well-deserved exploration.

Like the series, the film is very well-written and acted. These are actors very familiar with their characters. Playing them must have been as comfortable returning to as putting on a favorite t-shirt. Everything else about the film is as sumptuous as they were on the small screen but even more so, from the sets to the food, which, as always, plays a prominent part in the story.

If you were a fan of the series, then you will want to see the film, that’s a no-brainer. The real question is, if you haven’t seen the series should you go see the film? For the most part, you don’t need to have seen the series to enjoy the film. To be honest, the series provides you with a deeper understanding and there are some subtleties that you will get if you’ve seen it that someone who hasn’t won’t. But to Fellowes’ credit, the script provides enough backstory that the uninitiated won’t be lost in the relationships that are key to the story.

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