Downton Abbey— The Royal Visit

Downton Abbey— The Royal Visit September 20, 2019

As period pieces go, clearly Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey has been one of the best, and now we have the full movie sequel which picks up in 1927 where the TV series left off, with the full cast in tow. First of all the movie is beautifully filmed. It almost makes me want to move back to England. Almost. The rainy sequence reminded me why I wanted to leave. It is tricky business to do a film sequel to one of the most successful PBS TV series ever made. This film fairly flies by even though it lasts a bit over two hours, and we are regaled with period costumes, dances, music, and manners…. always the appropriate protocols. But why do Americans love it so? Is it the snob appeal? Is this some sort of wish fulfillment thing? Do we identify with the underlings, and sympathize with their plight? Perhaps it is because we are the revolutionaries who renounced the monarchy and its codification of wealth in the hands of the privileged few, and later had regrets. Some of us seem to prefer monarchs to democracy…. sort of.

This film has a bit of everything—romance, forbidden love, humor, absurdity, and just plain fun, and once again Maggie Smith gets most of the best lines. But never mind, we seem to actually care about what happens to Lord Grantham and his kin. We empathize with Tom and his Irish sympathies (frankly the British were brutal to the Irish, and no wonder there was a revolt in the 1920s as they struggled for real independence). Will Mary finally find true happiness? Will Carson finally go back to butlering? The main conceit of this pleasant fiction is that unexpectedly the king and queen’s whole staff— butlers, pages, and the chef come with them to Downton and displace the whole downstairs staff at Downton, which prompts a revolt! You’ll have to watch the film to see how Downton’s staff got their revenge!!

One thing is for sure…. you need a huge staff to keep up a huge house and its grounds, and frankly it’s more work than it’s worth. Or is it? You must decide.

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