This movie adaptation has the Downton Abbey residents and staff showing royalty who’s boss.
I was able to catch an early screening of the movie version of the hit series “Downton Abbey,” and even for all the characters’ subplots being crammed in the 2-hour runtime, it still has more charm than the “Sex & The City” movies.
4 years after the show reached its course on PBS, fans are left with anticipation. It’s also curious, because these types of TV-to-film entries can either be campy or worth the wait. “The X-Files,” “Veronica Mars,” “The Simpsons,” and “Sex & The City,” among others have entered the cinemas to continue their stories with the same stars and characters. And now “Downton Abbey,” created by Julian Fellowes, has joined the club.
As the film begins, set now in 1927, the aristocratic Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) both learn about King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) arriving at their estate soon. It’s crucial that the family and staff keep their stay at a formal and punctual manner; but we are given episodes that are either resolved or left in question. In fact, most of the characters show royalty who’s boss.
There were so many characters that the movie doesn’t take its time to explore all of them, but it does give some momentum. The Dowager Countess of Graham (Maggie Smith) is less than enthusiastic to be reunited with her distant cousin Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), who has grown fond about the high life. Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), the under-butler, may have found the man of his dreams: the King’s valet (Max Brown). Retired butler Charles Carson (Jim Carter) returns to the estate to help out. Lady Edith Pelham (Laura Carmichael) may be pregnant, while her husband Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) prepares to go on a 3-month tour of Africa. And Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) worries about Downton Abbey’s future, given the financial problems, time period, and stress.
And a subplot that really intrigued me is when the snotty royal staff threatens to overshadow the house staff at dinner. They intend to serve the King and Queen their proper meals, assuming the regular staff would fail. So, they intend to prove them wrong, with a few tricks up their elegant sleeves.
Again, I didn’t fully process every character’s side; but I admire how director Michael Engler (a series regular) has kept the high grace and style to a steady pace without feeling so glossy. It doesn’t look or feel as campy as the trailers would appear to be, and there are sincere moments worth caring about. Even Dockery, Smith, Staunton, Carter, Brown, and James-Collier keep you involved, because of their respective passions.
TV and movies can or can’t splice, depending on how the filmmakers inflict their faith into them. Select movies that try to replace the original actors like “The Dukes of Hazzard” or “Baywatch” tend to mean-spirited and reckless. But that’s on a different course. “Downton Abbey” has something for its fans.