DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (PG)
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (PG)
Director: Simon Curtis
Runtime: 125 minutes
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Lesley Nicol, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton and new cast members Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, Dominic West, Jonathan Zaccai
Synopsis: From award-winning creator Julian Fellowes comes the motion picture event Downton Abbey: A New Era. The much-anticipated cinematic return of the global phenomenon reunites the beloved cast as they go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’s newly inherited villa.
It has been three years since audiences last paid a big screen visit to the Lords, Ladies, staff and servants of that grand old country house, Downton Abbey; but the extended Crawley family are back for a brand-new story, set in a bold new era.
Still reeling from the revelation that a former paramour has bequeathed the Dowager Countess [Maggie Smith] a beautiful villa in the south of France, the Crawleys learn that a motion picture producer [Hugh Dancy] would like to make a film at Downton Abbey – bringing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the heart of the English countryside.
Written by award-winner Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Simon Curtis [Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)], Downton Abbey: A New Era reunites all the old familiar faces – Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Penelope Wilton, Joanne Froggatt, Allen Leech, Tuppence Middleton, Lesley Nicol and Brendan Coyle – for a grand journey to the south of France to uncover the secret of the Dowager Countess’s storied past.
The Crawleys set sail for the south of France after the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) comes into possession of a villa on the Côte d’Azur. Meanwhile, Hollywood comes to Downton when a new ‘kinematograph’ begins filming on the family estate – much to Lord Grantham’s (Hugh Bonneville) disgust: ‘A moving picture at Downton? It’s a horrible idea’
However, the roof is leaking, and the Abbey is in need of repairs, so the family allow a procession of dreadful (but well-paying) ‘kinema’ people through the doors to shoot a motion picture, much to the delight of the servants and the eye-rolling consternation of the family.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in Julian Fellowes’ script. Daisy gets starry-eyed at the arrival of Laura Haddock’s beautiful leading lady and fiery diva, Myrna Dalgleish who turns out to be terribly rude and — even worse — frightfully common, with a grating Cockney accent which allows for a Singing in the Rain scenario later.
Maggie Smith’s gloriously acerbic Violet continues to deliver an array of razor-sharp barbs, such as: “Ms. Dalglish has all the charm of a verucca.”
Lord Grantham, Lady Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and assorted family members including the newly married Tom (Allen Leech) and Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), pack their suitcases to head off to France along with a perpetually scowling Mr Carson (Jim Carter), to discover the mysterious origins of their new holiday home, rooted as it is in the passions of the Dowager’s youth.
Mr Carson lectures continental servants about the proper way to dress: “They’re very French, the French, aren’t they?”
The provenance of the beautiful villa and how it relates to Violet Crawley’s past is a continuing mystery and celebrated French actor, Nathalie Baye seems to be a key player in that storyline and less than pleased to meet the Crawleys or accept their claim to ownership.
Dominic West plays Guy Dexter, the heart-throb star of ‘The Gambler’, the talkie being shot at Downton Abbey, and he has an intimate moment with Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier). The gay Barrow came to terms with his sexuality in the first Downton Abbey movie and may have a future with the buff movie star by the end of this one.
With immaculate mise-en-scene and superior production detail and locations, the film moves Downton Abbey through the late 1920s and the jazz age, with a great soundtrack and authentic songs of the era.
Frothy it may be, but for those who have been with the Crawleys since the beginning Downton Abbey: A New Era is an emotional affectionate, escapist tale of meta filmmaking and a mysterious villa gripping from the first opening bars of John Lunn’s award-winning theme music.
Images courtesy of: Universal Pictures/Focus Features