A New Era, by Julian Fellowes


A New Era, by Julian Fellowes

Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Laura Carmichael in Downton Abbey: A New Era

Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Laura Carmichael Downton Abbey: A New Era
picture: Ben Blackall / 2022 Focus Features LLC

Rejoice, Downtonians! Downton Abbey: A New Era is a worthy introduction to Julian Fellowes’ beloved franchise. You were right, of course, to be concerned. The acclaimed TV drama’s first foray into the big screen, 2019 Downton Abbey, felt like a glorified holiday special; it’s no surprise that parasitethe far superior option Up down premise completely overshadowed them in terms of their cultural significance. And the fact that Focus Features has been postponed twice A new era, from December 2021 to March and then to May, wasn’t exactly reassuring. But the sequel manages to recreate that old feeling right from the opening images, set to the same John Lunn score that reliably gave viewers like you goosebumps some Sundays, just like Alabama’s “Woke Up This Morning.” 3 the fans of Alabama 3 The sopranos-only this time Downton without Laura Linney’s intro.

Violet (Maggie Smith), the Countess’s widow, comes into possession of a villa in southern France bequeathed by her old flame, the Marquis de Montmirail, whose widow (Nathalie Baye) swears to challenge his will in court. Unexpectedly, the Montmirails invite the Crawleys to visit. For some reason, the normally dopey Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Earl of Grantham, looks trimmed and tanned before he even sets foot in France. While most of the Crawleys leave to uncover lurid details of the widow’s past affair, the widow herself and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) stay behind.

While the previous film was nothing more than a gratuitous comedy of manners inspired by a royal visit to the estate, the sequel sees Fellowes revisit some of his series’ most enduring tropes. With the respective arrivals of electricity, telephone, toaster, fridge, blender, radio etc. the Downton crew always faced new technologies with apprehension. The schtick they struggle with to adapt to modern conveniences we take for granted never gets old, and Fellowes is reapplying his old tricks, with a cast and crew from the silent era trying to put on a solid one in Downton to take picture.

Look, there’s a couple of leaks in the attic. To fund the costly upkeep of the home, the Crawleys reluctantly accept an offer from filmmaker Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) to rent parts of Downton for photography by a “cinematographer” by name The player, starring Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock). Before the cast and crew even have a chance to wear down their reception, British Lion shuts down production because talkies are in demand. Mary, enterprising as ever, encourages Jack to turn the doomed project into a solid picture that will unlock many of Downton’s hidden talents. Myrna happens to have a hopeless Cockney accent unsuitable for talkies, so Jack hires Mary to dub her lines. This throws Myrna into a diva fit, which maids Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) try to smooth over. Apparently a lover of the dramatic arts, former valet, butler and footman Molesley (Kevin Doyle) steps under the baton to reformulate the dialogue from scratch.

It all gets a bit meta, which is a lot of fun indeed. Viewers can remember a PBS A look behind the scenes at Highclere Castle, the real Downton, and how the show has enabled expensive renovations to be made to the property. Plus, it’s cute for the Downton staff downstairs to act all styled and giddy at the prospect of being extras in the movie-within-a-movie when these series regulars are, to Downtonians at least, much bigger stars than West and Haddock. with all due respect.

Downtown Abbey: A New Era starring Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith

Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith present Downtown Abbey: A New Era
picture: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC

As with many series Downton is most emotional when beloved characters – the memorable cousin Matthew from Dan Stevens and Lady Sybil from Jessica Brown Findlay – suddenly depart. Over the years, the show has variously teased the possibilities of Lady Mary and Anna heading to America (which was no doubt inspiring The Gilded Age), Daisy quits to become a secretary, the butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier) finds love, the Countess Dowager’s final departure, etc., but these ideas didn’t pull through. After all, 12 years after the show’s first episode aired, there are a handful of high-profile departures A new era sure to meet Downtonians in sentiments.

Unlike Michael Engler, who led the first Downton Feature, director Simon Curtis never worked on the show (although he is tangentially linked to the franchise through his wife, Elizabeth McGovern, Cora, Countess of Grantham herself). Still the look and feel from A new era recall its origins on small screens. There are regular feeds showing Downton’s exterior in all its glory – an editorial decision that only makes sense for television. But Downtonians will probably feel all too happy to revisit this cast of characters, and it’s here that Fellowes reminds us of how we put so much into their lives in the first place.

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