Advertisements for the Downton Abbey movie would have you believe it opens on September 20, but a friend spotted it showing in Burlington last week, and I was able to attend. Here is my review (the first and maybe the last film review ever in The Bedford Citizen.)
The theme music from the Downton Abbey TV series swells as the camera sweeps across a large screen view of the abbey (really Highclere Castle) and its grounds. After watching the series on a twenty-inch screen, it is a delightful beginning. We follow the Royal Mail truck as it leaves the train station, motors up the long drive, and arrives at Downton Abbey and presents to a servant the daily mail. It is presented to an under butler, who delivers to Lord Grantham a very special envelope from Buckingham Palace. It announces an upcoming visit to Downton Abbey by the King and Queen of England (presumably George V and Queen Mary) All the family and staff are electrified with excitement, fear, and pride as preparations begin. Every surface must shine, and every meal must be perfect in both preparation and service.
The esteemed butler Carson comes out of retirement to take charge, temporarily supplanting Thomas who had recently gained the position. The preparations sow conflict centering on the struggle between the Palace Staff, who accompany the royal couple and the Downton Staff who are determined to fulfill the honor of serving their king and upholding the reputation of Downton. This subplot may be the least believable part of the story, but it is convincing enough to be very funny.
Fans of Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham, will once again enjoy her sharp wit, which is in good supply. There is some competition for great one-liners from Lady Crawley, an American heiress who had married into the landed Crawley family, bringing some badly needed cash flow with her.
She and Lord Crawley are standing at the Abbey entrance awaiting the royal carriage. “Are you nervous?” she whispered to her husband. “I am,” he confesses. “Is it common to say so?”
“Not to an American,” Lady Crawley replies.
So as the story moves along, there are financial worries, an attempted murder, an arrest (not Mr. or Mrs. Bates this time) and a “troublesome” female heir.
If you were never quite satisfied with how the story ended for your favorite character or just wanted a little more Downton, this movie is for you. The whole thing is topped off with the largest number of happy endings ever in one half-hour of film. Still, under Fellowes’ deft hand, it is convincing and joyful. Have fun!
For an account of a real-life event which may have inspired the story, see https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a28472902/king-george-v-queen-mary-princess-mary-visit-downton-abbey-movie-true-story/