DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (2022)
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Kevin Doyle, Phyllis Logan, Tuppence Middleton, Laura Haddock, Hugh Dancy, Dominic West, Joanne Froggatt, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Imelda Staunton, Raquel Cassidy, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Samantha Bond and Penelope Wilton.
Screenplay by Julian Fellowes.
Directed by Simon Curtis.
Distributed by Focus Features. 125 minutes. Rated PG.
I completely missed the boat on Downton Abbey. I heard of it when it became the hot TV series to watch about a decade ago. I even tried popping in the middle of the run for a random episode or two but because I had no idea what was going on and who any of these people were, I found it a little confusing and boring, therefore I never really dove deeper. When the Downton Abbey movie was released a few years ago, one of our other reviewers covered it, and he absolutely hated the movie, which led me to think maybe I was right in never following up.
Therefore, I had very muted expectations when I went to a critic’s screening for Downton Abbey: A New Era. Now, I wonder if I’ve been wrong all of these years for not giving the series more of a chance, because the new movie was actually completely charming.
Now I get the hype. In fact, I’m thinking of going back and streaming the series.
Downton Abbey is sort of an updating of the old PBS Masterpiece Theater type of programming. In fact, specifically it is reminiscent of Upstairs Downstairs, a 1970s series looking at the social hierarchies in an affluent British home in the early 20th century, showing the servants (downstairs) interacting with the masters of the house (the upstairs crew).
Downton Abbey also takes a look at the relationship between the servants and the homeowners of a British castle, also at about the same time period. (The latest movie takes place in the 1928, while the series apparently took place in the years between 1912 and 1926.)
This is not some dark look at class warfare. In fact, what is nice to see is that the relationships are mostly sweetly respectful between bosses and servants. They are often friends and equals; the only difference is that some have more money than the others. However, the servants are fiercely loyal to their employers, and the feeling is mutual.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is sometimes pretty soapy, sometimes very funny, sometimes surprisingly tenderhearted, sometimes quaintly old fashioned, sometimes surprisingly modern.
Essentially, A New Era runs on two concurrent tracks. The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) has inherited a villa in the south of France from a man she barely knew years earlier, and family members for down to see the place and learn why the home has been bequeathed to her. In the meantime, in the home castle, a crew of filmmakers arrive to film a silent movie – which quickly is changed into a talkie due to changing public tastes – and everything is thrown into a havoc by all the showbusiness types.
It’s all wonderfully old-fashioned and opulent, and yet it subtly takes on some very current issues.
A New Era has some of its most fun with the film subplot, showing many of the inhabitants of Downton to be frightfully behind the times and afraid of change, while others willing to step up and move with the times. (The Dowager Countess often makes snide remarks about the filmmakers, at one point suggesting she’d rather work in a mine than work on film, which unintentionally points out that she has never really had to work at anything….)
Add in romantic subplots, grand celebrations (both in the South of France and at the home base), changing political and social mores, marriages and the illness of a couple of significant characters and Downton Abbey: A New Era will keep fans asking for more.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 18, 2022.