‘Downton’ movie witty, slightly disappointing

Meredith Comas, Print Editor-in-Chief

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The beginning notes of John Lunn’s “The Suite” begins to fill the theater as it’s E to A piano notes surround the popcorn-stained seats. 

Something begins to feel different — timeless. Like an old story once forgotten, begun again. The opening scenes come on screen and there it is, standing gloriously in it’s golden, sunlit profile-shot: Downton Abbey, returned to the spotlight.

“Downton Abbey” returned to the entertainment universe this weekend, except this time, it made its debut on the big screen with a two-hour film that featured the same cast and English countryside set viewers of the Masterpiece Classic series knew and loved. 

The movie, titled under the same as the beloved show, has already garnered much attention from its release. Within two days of its release, the movie has already made an estimated $31 million in ticket sales. 

I have no shame in admitting I was one of the many who bought my ticket for the movie in advance and relished in every comical plot twist “Downton” almost always seems to provide. 

The movie truly felt as if it were an extension of season eight, as the film begins the royal plot right off just like any other episode. For returning fans and viewers, this was relatively unfazing, it was just like picking up a chapter where we left off. However, for new viewers, this could be confusing. 

“Downton,” of course, featured the usual wit of actors such as Maggie Smith and the dramatic romances of characters such as Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) that were last seen in the final season of the TV show. However, the usual grit of such characters like Mary seemed to have been left in season six, as she seemed to play a background role for most of the movie as a frantic woman suddenly in charge, until almost abruptly it is revealed that the main resolution of the film was the relationship between Mary and her grandmother (Smith), as well as their upkeep of the Crawley family and Downton itself.

However, even new viewers couldn’t help but smile at the reunion of actors Smith and Imelda Staunton — who played Lady Bagshaw — once again portraying enemies. The last time we saw these two on-screen together was in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” as Professor McGonagall and Dolores Umbridge. The banter written for the actresses was much more mild for “Downton” than in “Harry Potter,” but was never short of the wit that seems to follow them around. 

Much more positive, however, was the innocent mischief and troubles of Downton’s downstairs — the staff and workers of the home. Re-experiencing the trifles of the Bates family, along with staple characters Mrs. Pattmore (Leslie Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) was a breath of fresh, English air. Throughout the film, every character received attention and their own dramatic, mini-plotted adventure. The playfulness and unraveling of each ironic scenario-we-saw-coming truly brought a smile to my face.

The only negative I can find is that, at times, it seemed the producers were so eager to conclude a character’s plotline or give the audience a firm resolution that some endings seemed rushed or forced in the process. Had this been a mini-series, or part of a special reunion series, there may have been more of a chance to properly explore these different stories and outcomes. This didn’t stop me from cheering at each happy ending, though. 

Despite any of these grievances, “Downton” once again amazed me at the power of a period piece to so gracefully respond to modern-day issues — such as LBGTQ rights — and its overall ability to retain a method of storytelling appealing to so many across generational lines. 

I have no doubts that “Downton” will regain a following of the Masterpiece series after this movie and once again stand tall in the industry. 

In the words of Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), “A hundred years from now Downton will still be standing… that is a promise.”

 

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