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September 26, 2019

Downton Abbey (2019) --- “You Have Been Cordially Invited...”

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     It’s 1927 and excitement runs high at Downton Abbey when the Crawley family learns that King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be spending a night at Downton Abbey, while on their tour of the country. But trouble soon arises throughout the house. Downstairs Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol), and the rest of the servants learn that the king and queen travel with their own entourage of chefs and attendants, who seek to dis-include the house staff from helping thus setting the stage for schemes and shenanigans. While upstairs both the Crawley and the Royal family are dealing with their own varying degrees of circumstances and their decisions will affect everyone upstairs and downstairs. The story continues in this beloved tale filled with scandal, romance, and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance.

     Directed by Michael Engler (Downton Abbey series) and written by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey series), Downton Abbey (2019) is the perfect film adaptation of a beloved series that charmed its viewers for six seasons. From 2010 to 2015 and over the course of 52 episodes, audiences around the world fell in love with the lives of Downton Abbey’s wealthy Crawley family and their servants downstairs. The series featured rich and interesting characters and contained a complex screenplay that gave all the characters ample time their stories, a difficult goal that series creator Julian Fellowes managed to achieve. Now Fellowes has invited us back into this exquisite world where we get to see new faces and catch up with old friends. The story picks up approximately 18 months after the finale episode with an engaging tale that feels authentic and fits into the already established world. The pace is slightly faster than it was in series but the story never feels rushed or overhanded in its delivery. All in all, Downton Abbey is a charming and nostalgic film that left audiences wanting more and has inspired rumored talks of a sequel film that I believe should be confirmed soon.
     The film opens up with Downton Abbey’s iconic theme song by John Lunn (Downton Abbey, The Last Kingdom, The White Queen) that any fan can recognize after only a few notes and the rest of the music is nostalgic of the series. With warm rich colors, dramatic pans, and consistent focus points the cinematography by Ben Smithard (Blinded by the Light, Goodbye Christopher Robin) is fantastic, while the film editing by Mark Day (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) is creative and complementary. 
     The cast performances were solid and nostalgic of the series. Returning cast members - Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Laura Carmichael, Harry Hadden-Paton, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Allen Leech, Robert James-Collier, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Kevin Doyle, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Michael Fox - fall into their old roles splendidly. While the new cast members - Simon Jones, Geraldine James, Kate Phillips, Max Brown, Imelda Staunton, Tuppence Middleton - are great new additions to the series and I hope that we get to see more of them should there be a sequel film. This is what I thought of a few of their performances.
     Now while Laura Carmichael’s (The Spanish Princess) Lady Edith doesn’t have as much of central role to the story as Michelle Dockery’s (Good Behavior, Anna Karenina) Lady Mary, her small moments on-screen leave an impression and demonstrate why she is my favorite Crawley. Allen Leech (Bohemian Rhapsody) is another one of my favorites, particularly because he was very different from the rest of the family, and here it is nice that he is given a romantic interest in the form of Tuppence Middleton’s (The Current War) Lucy Smith character, they have great chemistry together and the attraction is instant. Another character to mention and one that thought gave a surprising performance was Robert James-Collier’s (Ackley Bridge), Thomas Barrow. In the series, he is a scheming and mischievous character that most audiences love to hate but here he delivers a surprisingly mature performance and with the addition of a potential romance from Max Brown’s (The Royals, The Tudors) Richard Ellis you can’t help but root for a happy ending for him. There is also the interesting storyline that follows Kate Phillips’s (Peaky Blinders) Princess Mary’s complex and slightly difficult marriage, which is primarily due to the fact that she and her husband are almost strangers to one another. 
     And finally, there is the sassy and comical duo of Maggie Smith’s (The Lady in the Van, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) Violet Crawley and Penelope Wilton’s (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, After Life) Isobel Merton, who’s constant bickering, sarcastic, and slightly snobbish conversations is just as fresh today as it was when we were first introduced to them. This time though their duo is turned into a triad with the addition of Imelda Staunton’s (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) Lady Maud Bagshaw, Violet’s estranged cousin who seems to be able to hold her own just as easily and plays off of the other characters nicely. It was also interesting to see Staunton and Smith play off each other again but this time with completely different characters then the ones they played in the Harry Potter series. 
     Overall, Downton Abbey (2019) is a charming and nostalgic film that takes a worldwide phenomenon from the TV to the big screen. Part of the film’s success lies is in part due to the writing and direction, both of which are helmed by the series creator Julian Fellowes and the main director Michael Engler. Fellowes delivers a new and engaging story that picks up where the finale episode ended but also provides a tale that is believable in its ability to fit in with the already established storyline. The music, cinematography, film editing, and costumes were spot on and have improved the series. The cast performances were solid and nostalgic. The old cast members fell into their roles beautifully, while the new characters complimented the original cast as well as bringing something new to the story. All in all, Downton Abbey is one of the few TV-to-film adaptations that prove to be even more successful than its predecessor. Whether or not you have seen the series, I highly recommend that you see this film. And if you have not seen the series then I am sure that after watching this you be more intrigued to check it out, especially because it will help you to understand who everyone is what their connections are.

Final Vote --- 10 of 10 stars

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