Set in 1927 after its highly successful six-season (small-screen) run is the much-loved upstairs-downstairs drama which gets the lavish silver-screen treatment for downstairs drama which gets the lavish silver-screen treatment for those longing for some needed bright, highbrow British nostalgia.
Downton Abbey has a dutiful, undemanding quality about it, benign in its own assertive manner that will easily lure its faithful following even with its priority regarding property and class. As must as this silly diversion lets you into its tiered global perspective.
The chief scenarist from the series, 70-year-old Julian Fellowes (a House of Lords member), knows how to insert republicanism into a screenplay with may play like disconnected and inconsequential episodes to the uninitiated; refined with silvery precision for those well invested such a grand manor and its inhabitants.
While the proceedings do have a triteness these characters generally have a decency often reflected in a certain humanitarian pride. In Fellowes’s scenario here, Lord Grantham/Robert Crowley (Hugh Bonneville) learns that the King and Queen will be visiting the titular country manse which in turn rattles the domestic situation a bit.
Will the royals allow the Downton staff to serve them supper instead of their own, and how highfalutin is Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton) who happens to be the maid to childless Lady Bashaw (Imelda Staunton). This new character (one of a number) happens to be the estranged cousin of Dowager Countess Violet, (Maggie Smith having that appealing choleric virulence about her). So, the two Harry Potter vets get to have some nice verbal ripostes. Dame Smith displays the kind of effortless prowess that has cemented her international status.
There’s also the matter of who should be the right heir to Lady Bagshaw’s land and fortune and her obstinacy regarding it. An eventful high point appears around the midpoint only to seemingly be passed over in favor of a trifling code violation of meal presentation.
Director Michael Engler knows how to allow his dramatis personae (many of them returning) shine in spite of an intimate allure provided so often before the show concluded in 2015. Of course not everyone has a spouse, so the ensuring discordance allows for a little friskiness that may seem like a tease given what’s a stake. Nonetheless, having the bluster of Jim Carter’s Mr. Carson and Phyllis Logan’s Mrs. Hughes is admirable, even right for this kind of fare.
Among the more well-known engaging folks include Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary Talbot, Elizabeth McGovern’s Cora Crowley/Countess Grantham, Joanne Froggart’s Anna Smith, Matthew Goode’s Henry Talbot. And, in this formal atmosphere others like Allen Leech and Tom Branson, Rob James-Collier as Thomas Barrow, Sophie McShena’s cagey Daisy, and Laura Carmichael’s Edith Pelham have their moments, or come out of the closet, so to speak.
By continuing the tradition of such an endeavor a rich, enduring portrait with acerbic delicacy an innocent point-of-order arises in one-dimensional fashion with plenty of cut-outs and fades. A cinematic stopgap from Fellowes is par for this course knowing his stories resonate with a stately poignancy in the usual segmented format. Especially if they can capture Britain the way the sentient scribe did, in his debut, for the late Robert Altman in the overlapping discourse of a quite riveting Gosford Park.