- Colin Fraser
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA
THREE STARS Hollywood comes to Downton Abbey, much to the delight of some and the horror of others. Meanwhile, Lady Granville has mysteriously inherited a French villa. PERIOD DRAMA UK #DOWNTONABBEY
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith
There’s a general consensus that if a film does what it set out to do, then it’s a good film. On that basis DOWNTON ABBEY is five star entertainment. For at no point does it pretend to be more than a binge-worthy, two-hour, gently self-parodising indulgence of its TV self. Creator Julian Fellowes doesn’t signal any claims to high-art, instead he’s given us a period-poster, the kind you hang on the wall to remind you of a glorious holiday in Europe's yester-year.
Of course, if you have no interest in the kind of costume dramas that British television cut its teeth on and continues to serve with alarming regularity by way of Bridgeton, Sanditon or any show requiring stiff upper lips, parasols, crinoline, fine china and an army of servants, look away. There is nothing here for you. The rest of us can take delight in settling down with a nice cup of tea to watch the gang regroup and clamour at the fates that befall them.
Last time around, Downton was in a tizz when the King and Queen came to visit. This time, royalty of another kind has the house buzzing - Hollywood! In need of a cash injection to fix a leaky roof, Mary agrees to let a film crew use Downton as a backdrop. Downstairs is thrilled at the possibility of meeting real film stars while upstairs Mary’s father is outraged at the thought of ‘actresses plastered in make up and actors who are just plastered’ filling his home.
Fortunately a distraction is at hand as Lady Granville has just inherited a villa in France much to everyone’s surprise. Who can the mystery donor be? Only one way to find out and thus one half of the family (plus servants) decamp to Toulon while the other stay to manage the filmmakers. Three characters get tapped for a death scene, there are two weddings and a funeral. Melodramatic? Soap? No kidding.
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA does what Downton does best. Entertain. It’s all a bit silly really and Fellowes is well aware of how far reality has been stretched with more than one nod and a wink at the camera. But what matter as long as Lady Granville gets to fire zingers at those around her (she does), secrets are revealed (they are) and a few hearts find love along the way (they do).
Besides, there’s an awful lot to be said in favour of a film in which the most brutal moment involves a porcelain urn being smashed. In a world consumed by extraordinarily violent entertainment (looking at your NORTHMAN), DOWNTON is an agreeably soothing break from the tumult. Make a cucumber sandwich and set your mind at ease.