Saturday, September 28, 2019

Downton Abbey (the movie)

    My wife and I saw Downton Abbey—The Movie a week ago and as promised, my more detailed reactions are now available here. 

If you have seen the Downton television series, watching this film is like slipping into a pair of well broken in bedroom slippers or dipping into a bowl of strawberries and clotted cream. If you have not seen the TV series, the plot and the character’s relation to it may come at you rather too rapidly. The back stories from the series are numerous and critical so it does help that the  initiated know why Lady Mary and Lady Edith greet each other tentatively. They are already primed and ready to laugh at Maggie Smith’s every acerbic remark. They know without needing to ask about the crosscurrents circulating below stairs and it is no surprise when Mr. Carson returns to assist with the royal visit.

It is also not surprising that the eye candy Abbey and the incredible outfits worn by its inhabitants steal the pictorial show. Downton Abbey itself is imposing and timeless in glorious dawns, sunny days, and torch lit evenings. Never are there repair scaffolds to mar its enveloping and stalwart presence.

Sure we are watching the final gasps of a life style destined for discard and just waiting for the Depression, the rise of National Socialism in Germany, and the next Great War. Yet, while the party goes on, we can revel in all the characters and their soap opera conflicts. A royal visit must be prepared for; Buckingham Palace servants must arrive and put downstairs into a tizzy; and a mysterious Irishman must lurk in a dark pub with Tom to give us just the right amount of violent possibility. Just like the TV series,  the elements are tied up in a nice bow at the end leaving only a few threads hanging that could be used for new episodes should the prolific creator, Julian Fellows, wish to take us into the 1930’s.

In sum my wife and I loved the film. We loved the color, the pageantry, the costumes, the family disputes, and the class warfare.  We fully realize the world depicted is as much romance as King Arthur’s Camelot and we fully acknowledge that the lives of the servant class were far harsher than depicted.  Yet, we loved it still.  Chris Jones said in his positive Chicago Tribune review that “The only justification for privilege is service,” and The Downton family does seem to exemplify this in spite of their obscene wealth.

And let’s face it, when all is said and done, you just have to love slipping on a pair of well broken in bedroom slippers and eating berries covered with clotted cream.      

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