Downton Abbey: A New Era is Julian Fellowes’ finest fan service


Downton Abbey: A New Era is Julian Fellowes' finest fan service

“Times are changing and we must change with them,” mousy maid Baxter explains early on Downton Abbey: A New Era. Baxter is the third and least duplicitous maid of the lady who has since taken care of Cora Crawley Downton Abbey started; She’s also the latest in a long line of characters to champion a different approach, usually over objections from sinister butlers or lords nostalgic for Victorian times. Agents of change have always had a hard time in the world of Downton: They die in car accidents or in childbirth, or discover that if they think about it further, they could get used to being rich and spoiled. Behind the scenes, too, where series creator Julian Fellowes has edited each script individually over the years, little has changed. Downton it was always about them End an era of big houses and sprawling downstairs staffs, but the title of the franchise’s new film promises to shake things up. So has Fellowes finally handed over the reins? is A new era a reboot following a future generation of Crawleys in the Swinging ’60s?


Fellowes resumes his usual role as sole screenwriter, and his screenplay isn’t fast-forwarded. Only a year has passed Downton It’s been a long time since we last met up with the Crawley clan and the whole gang is here, from Maggie Smith to the footmen, maids and doctors. The new installment, a sequel to the 2019 film which itself served as a sequel to the ITV/PBS series that ran from 2010 to 2015, follows a formula designed to the relief of its fans has hardly changed. The first season of the series was set in 1912, and this film takes us all the way to 1928. But 12 years have passed since then in the real world Downton debuted, meaning that despite surviving a world war, the weakening of the aristocracy, and the arrival of electricity and the telephone, the Crawleys have barely gained any traction to this day. “The modern world is coming to Downton,” says Cora of Elizabeth McGovern A new era, but the Crawleys are forever a century or so behind. Exactly where we want them to be.

The first film grossed almost $200 million on a budget of $13 million, almost guaranteeing a sequel if the main cast could be persuaded to return. Of course they could, and so they Downton-Industrial Complex generated another warm and fluffy trip to Highclere Castle directed by Downton Newcomer Simon Curtis (who is married to McGovern). For longtime fans of the franchise, Downton Movies are like small, comforting family reunions staged for no other reason than that it’s nice to see old faces again. look how big Sybbie has received! Oh Andy and Daisy seem so happy. What’s new with you, Mr. Molesley?

To be clear, I support any excuse for spending more time in the company of the Crawleys and their hired help, soapy and serious as their largely carefree affairs may be. Technically, there is some level of conflict underpinning A new era. Namely, Downton’s roof is leaking, forcing the staff –gasp– Place sinks in the attic to catch the drips. Yes, times are tough. “We don’t need to talk about money,” stutters Lord Grantham, but funds need to be found for overdue maintenance. Ladies Mary and Edith propose to Lord Grantham, Carson and Co. a solution that smacks of the end times: allow a silent film production company to use Downton for an outside shoot.

This part of the storyline draws heavily on real life: Downton’s ramshackle roof reflects Highclere’s state of decay before an influx of Downton Dollars refilled the coffers of Carnarvon. It also steals sing in the rain, with newcomers Dominic West and Laura Haddock playing the roles of Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, respectively, and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) stepping in, Kathy Selden-style, to overdub when the silent film turns into talkie will. Opening Downton’s doors to landless rabble like West’s Guy Dexter, Haddock’s Myrna Dalgleish and Hugh Dancy’s director Jack Barber is almost more than the manor’s occupants can grin and take, but as Smith’s Violet Crawley notes, “We survived the war , we can get through this.”

Fortunately, most Crawleys are spared front-row seats from the humiliation of a film crew-haunted home Miscellaneous Development that drives A new era: Smith’s beloved Dowager Countess was unexpectedly bequeathed a villa in southern France in the will of a former flame. Ah, the hassle of managing a new mansion. There is a solution for the public: sell the villa and renovate the roof! But then the problems would be solved (as they are) and there would be no need for a field trip to Toulon’s villa Rockapella Rocabella, or for the rest of the film’s crises major and minor, which in descending order of severity are ranked by several potentially fatal illnesses above Lord Grantham’s fears that he was born illegitimate to a French father (Age of Terror) to Carson becoming seasick and struggling to find something formal that is still seasonally appropriate to wear in warm weather .

Like rebel-turned-establishment Tom Branson, whom Maud Bagshaw describes as “a leopard who has successfully switched spots,” Fellowes has faithfully transferred its franchise from the small screen to the big. Even more than its predecessor A new era Stresses under the weight of this transition. Its overloaded story packs a season’s storylines into two hours, and the film’s frequent transitions across the channel only reinforce the impression of frenetic fan-service record spinning. Fellowes has his hands full The Gilded Age and other projects, resulting in a film every few years that most fans can hope to see Downton. As such, each new edition of Downton must make room for every character, whether they have a real reason to be there or not. Some C, D, and E plots read like ways to eliminate character beats on an IMDb bingo card: Carson is sent to France only to be spared from the film crew’s “mob rule”; Lady Edith trying to be both Chatelaine and journalist; Andy and Daisy plan how to date privately.

The only notable absentee is Mary’s husband Henry Talbot, a result of Matthew Goode’s scheduling conflicts; “Marriage is a novel, not a short story,” says Mary, but her husband is not on any of the pages here. (Neither is a character of color, save for a brief glimpse of a jazz band — a symbolic fix for the series’ lily-white character roster that Fellowes has previously used.) Talbot isn’t much missed, as he’s replaced by the possibility of an affair with Dancy, who is capable Forcing Mary into the same kind of temptation her grandmother faced decades earlier. The bond between Violet and Mary, whose mutual duty to Downton spans generations, is the bedrock on which the film’s humor and hilarity rest; Hugh Bonneville may have thought the iconic character, 87-year-old Smith, would die between films, but it wouldn’t have been enough for the widow to disappear from screens.

As a dubious Lord Grantham says, “It strikes me as very sentimental.” And so it is. But for those who have been on board for six seasons and two Movies, the sight of Highclere and the sound of those rousing strings make these sporadic interludes in Downton as long-awaited and nostalgic as a trip to Hogwarts or Tatooine. A new era delivers several vintage widow putdowns; a few hard-hitting quips about the French; a tender Mary Carson scene; and emotional rewards for supporting players who’ve been waiting a while for their happy endings, like Barrow, Molesley, and Mrs. Patmore. It also offers some meaningful commentary on the magic and mundaneness of filmmaking. And though the widow dismisses the medium with a scathing “I’d rather make my living in a mine,” the Downton-produced film proves transformative for Molesley, who — like Fellowes when he began his screenwriting career — found a calling fairly late in life .

This titular new era isn’t entirely false publicity: A seismic shift, or what’s being passed for it Downton, happens. At no point, however, will viewers feel as if they have been “transported to another planet,” to use the widow’s words, as she compares the England of her youth to that of her old age. Perhaps even more important is this portion Downton Forbearance doesn’t rule out further sequels, even if it would work as a coda. The cast is probably too deep for a single exit to leave an irreparable hole in the franchise’s roof, and the only leaks in theater were in the corner of my eye during some of those sentimental moments. (If that means I have the soul of a 70-year-old Brit, then so be it.)

Life, Violet muses, is about “overcoming the unexpected and maybe learning from it.” There’s little in there A New era this is not to be expected, but there is still a lot of life. A new era Name-checks Fitzgerald, but Fellowes is the modern master at convincing viewers to be incessantly transported back in time. As Cora concludes, “Individual Crawleys come and go, but the family lives on.” As long as box office numbers remain strong and Fellowes is willing to put pen to paper to produce more melodrama, Downtonis multimedia Dynasty does not have to be deposed. But if this is the end then then Downton died the way anyone who follows the franchise would have wished: just the way it lived.

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