Sunday, November 17, 2019

Movie with Abe: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey
Directed by Michael Engler
Released September 20, 2019

Such a high percentage of films being released at the moment are remakes, reboots, and franchise entries that it can become tiresome to not see anything original in theaters. When a successful TV series is brought back on the big screen, there’s always a question of just how necessary it is and whether it’s merely a way to try to make more money from fan service and the knowledge that tickets will sell. Whether there’s a value beyond that may be subjective, and the merits of a film should be judged independently from its source material, particularly on its ability to stand on its own as a single experience.

The residents and staff at Downton Abbey are startled by the announcement that the king (Simon Jones) and queen (Geraldine James) will be visiting. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) prepare the kitchen, while Mary (Michelle Dockery) doubts the ability of butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier) to handle the visit, prompting her to bring Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) back on board. As the visit approaches, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and the staff are disappointed to learn that they’re supposed to play no role in serving the regals, inspiring Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) to hatch a plan. Violet (Maggie Smith) prepares for a confrontation with her cousin Maud (Imelda Staunton) over who should be her rightful heir, while Tom (Allen Leech) is approached by someone he believes is monitoring his behavior to ensure he will not cause a scene based on his politics.

It may be difficult to read that summary without feeling lost if this is a viewer’s first trip to Downton, but the plot and action are appropriately super-sized for the big screen. There are no questions of whether servants deserve more in life when those they wait upon have so much more than they need, but rather that the servants should be entitled to demonstrate their skills and pride in their work to the most important guests the estate has ever hosted. It’s a fun upgrade that feels fitting for this major event that takes this story and elevates it to a wider audience than might choose to tune in to PBS at home.

The cast is exceptional as always, with Kevin Doyle standing out particularly as the overager Mr. Molesley. The new additions are all great, including Tuppence Middleton from “Sense8” as Maud’s maid. There’s definitely a positive dimension that comes with watching this film on a larger screen with the reactions of others audible, which also suggests that Smith may be a popular choice for awards groups for nailing every one of her scene-stealing lines. Though this film, like the show that came before it, will likely be marketed as a drama, this film is a pure comedy delight, presenting fully-drawn characters committed to their parts in this highly enjoyable and completely engaging film that demonstrates that this world is more than worth revisiting.


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