Downton Abbey is more of the same, and that's just fine
I’ve been a fan of Downton Abbey since the show first aired, but like any great love that breaks your heart, I almost wrote off the show for good after an event that will not be named here. Fans will know of what I speak, and honestly, if you aren’t a fan of the show, I don’t know what you are doing here, because Downton Abbey is a movie for fans only thank you very much. So to all the curious looky-loos, I’m sorry to say you have six seasons (or series if you are British) to catchup on if you are ever to understand this love letter to us tried-and-true Abbeyphiles. Yes, despite my battered heart, I did come back to the fold.
Like previous seasons of the show, Downton Abbey jumps ahead in it’s timeline, this time to 1927. The house is all in a tizzy as word arrives that King George and Queen Mary will be visiting Downton Abbey as part of a royal tour of the country. It’s a formula that the show executed rather well considering it’s massive cast, whether it was the arc of an episode or an entire season: one big event that six or more B-plotlines hang their hat on, and the same holds true here. The King and Queen, and even the Queen’s lady-in-waiting Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), are non-characters that we dutifully oblige as long as they provide the necessary dramatic kerfuffles that our dearly beloved Crawleys must navigate. And they don’t disappoint.
Honestly, the joy of watching this movie is just being back in the presence of Carson, Mrs. Hughes, Anna, Mr. Bates, Mrs. Patmore, and yes, you get it, because you are a fan. Every character you love, even the ones that annoy you, doing exactly what you love/hate them for. It’s a cozy sweater, a warm cup of tea. When nothing in the world makes sense, we know we can rely on Edith’s complaining (a little less grating here), Mary’s barbed tongue (a lot less biting here), and the Dowager’s one-liners (still as epic as ever). The writers clearly had a blast writing for Penelope Wilton’s Isobel and Maggie Smith’s Dowager. The exchanges between these two frenemies continue to be next level. Yes, everyone has grown up a little, and more times than not everyone is on the same team, but we shouldn’t expect anything different. As the show was always quick to remind us, the times they are a-changing, and as a final(?) send off, everyone should get their happy ending. Even Thomas I guess.
Make no mistake, Downton Abbey isn’t so much a “film” as it is another episode of the show, albeit extended. And while the costumes and sets are still lovely to behold, I didn’t find it anymore grandiose or opulent than the show. The writing is familiar, and the stellar cast continues to execute on their beloved characters. As I hope I’ve made clear here, if you love the show, you will enjoy your time back at the Abbey. They’ve been expecting you after all.
Downton Abbey opens in Philly theaters tonight.