REVIEW: A well-deserved farewell to the “Downton” saga – Orange Leader
“Downton Abbey: A New Era”
Directed by Simon Curtis
With Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Michael Fox, Hugh Dancy, Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith
I never considered myself a dedicated “Downton Abbey” fan. The series had too many characters and plots for my taste, although I seem to be in the minority in this opinion. Lord knows the show has some very dedicated fans.
That’s why we now have a second “Downton Abbey” movie in theaters this weekend. Thanks to an opening wedding, it is a continuation of the previous film, but the main story this time is divided into two separate axes. Half the cast flies to the south of France because the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) has inherited a villa and her son (Hugh Bonneville) is determined to find out why a stranger would leave such an extravagant gift to her. mother. The other half of the cast is staying on because a film company has asked to shoot in the Crawley estate. The family agrees, but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) stays behind to oversee.
There’s a lot going on here, and as was the case with the TV show, I found it hard to get too invested in the story. There just isn’t enough time to give each character their due, so instead we get a fast-paced shallow story that just stares at these characters.
Still, credit this superb cast for giving us their best, despite the lack of ample screen time. It is thanks to their abilities that the story caught my attention. In the hands of lesser players, it could have been a confusing mess.
Of course, these characters are the main draw of “Downton Abbey,” and they come preloaded with six seasons of backstory, so it’s easy to remember past exploits. This is particularly the case of the sparring between Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith. It’s no surprise that these scenes turn out to be the highlight of the film in terms of humor and emotion.
My highest praise goes to Julian Fellowes, who crafted a story that is the epitome of fan service. Knowing that this is probably the last time we’ll see “Downton Abbey” on screen, he managed to deliver a decent send-off for the majority of the characters. The dangling storylines are finally tied together, and while there is a bit of tragedy, it all generally ends on a happy note. If this is really the end, fans of the series should be very happy with this resolution.
All of this has me thinking about my feelings about “Downton Abbey: A New Era.” On the one hand, I’m really impressed with the craftsmanship showcased in this film. From the acting to the writing and production design, everything is top notch. Then again, I still struggle to make any real connections to these characters.
I suspect that won’t be a problem at all for most fans of the series. It is the essential cinema for them. They will be absolutely delighted with this affectionate and appropriate farewell to “Downton Abbey”.
Sean McBride’s film reviews, “The Movie Guy”, are published weekly by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at [email protected].