I completely avoided Downton Abbey during its initial run on PBS, assuming it was just another boring period piece. But recently, I got curious and took a peek. One episode lead to all six seasons and now I’m a fan. Just in time for the film adaptation that came out this month.
For those not in the know, Downton tells the story of the well-to-do Crawley family living in a lavish estate in early 20th century Yorkshire, England. There’s patriarch Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham; his wife Cora, Countess of Grantham; their daughters, Lady Mary and Lady Edith; son-in-law, Tom; Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham; and Cousin Eleanor. The downstairs staff at the estate is also featured. Butler Thomas Barrow; head housekeeper Mrs. Hughes; the cook, Mrs. Patmore; her assistant, Daisy; former butler and Mrs. Hughes’ husband, Carson; Anna, the ladies’ maid and her husband John, the valet; Cora’s maid, Baxter; nutty sometimes-footman, Molesley; and footman, Andy.
Over the course of the series, the denizens of Downton, ran through several storylines. Romance, betrayal, adventure, and tragedy to name a few. Show creator, Julian Fellowes, manages to craft a captivating story for the film that picks up where the series left off. The King and Queen of England are coming to Downton for a visit, throwing the entire household into a tizzy as they get ready for the grand arrival. When the royal staff appears, with the intention of pushing the Downton servants out of the way, the drama (and hijinks) really kick in.
Fellowes and director Michael Engler continue with the familiar, while driving things up a notch. The world becomes a bit bigger and cinematic. An assassination attempt, a mysterious heir, and an underground gay night club are added to the mix. But at the heart of it are these characters that the fans love. Each gets a chance to shine over the course of the 2hour film. I was particularly happy that gay villain turned fan-favorite, Thomas, was able to take a small step out of the closet. Widower Tom had a chance for a new beginning, as well. Plus, there were more witty zingers from the Dowager Countess. You can’t have too much of Dame Maggie Smith.
I enjoyed spending a little more time in Downton with this new adaptation. And I’m quite glad I finally took a chance on a “stuffy” Masterpiece Theatre series.