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Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022) – Movie Review

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About movie Downton Abbey: A New Era

After six seasons of television, a previous film, and a cultural shift that has prompted some of the show’s original viewers to regard the characters’ generational wealth with revulsion and glee, as though it were a wheel of rotten Stilton, “Downton Abbey: A New Era” asserts that change has struck at the Grantham family’s manor. The stately sequence that began in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic is now entering its conclusion in the late 1920s. On the horizon, a rough sea of modernity is forming. To remain afloat, this pleasant sequel decides to ever so slightly democratize itself: The upstairs-downstairs distinction that has long separated estate owners from their stewards begins to leak.

The most memorable part of Downton Abbey’s roof is the clock, which motivates Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) to rent the cash-strapped estate to a team shooting silent film producers of “kin-ema,” as Lady Mary’s father, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), calls it, mockingly mispronouncing the name of the art form. (The moviemaking plot point may have been inspired by real-life: The franchise’s filming location, Highclere Castle, which resembles a vampire bat’s underbite, opened its doors to the show after Geordie Herbert, the Eighth Earl of Carnarvon and Queen Elizabeth II’s godson, recognized that many of its rooms were decaying.)

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Downton Abbey A New Era

The director, Julian Fellowes, and the “Downton Abbey” creator who also wrote “A New Era,” go on to have their own actors compete for who can deliver the best meta-zingers about the profession. On seeing that her bloodline hasn’t earned its living, snooty Dowager Countess Maggie Smith spits, “I’d prefer to work at the mine.” The obvious reply is that because of her lineage, she has not worked a day in her life which would be an insult against Dame Tuppence Middleton and Allen Leech as devoted parents striving to keep their children from becoming unproductive rich people.

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Downton Abbey: A New Era Review

My larger point is that a lot has happened in the Downton Abbey story. As a consequence of this, Kevin Doyle, who plays Molesley, the former butler-turned-schoolteacher, immediately addresses the audience and provides them with a quick refresher in “Downton Abbey: A New Era.” This feels a bit stupid because it does. On the other hand, in space operas, catch-up is generally accomplished through a printed crawl, and for this recap a printed crawl might reach Proustian proportions. I thought the whole thing was a bit too long because while the preamble does an excellent job of introducing us to the who’s who, the two narrative strands that propel this film are rather unconnected to what has gone before.

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LITERAL Dowager Countess of the Abbey, Violet, and mother to its much-put-upon Earl, Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is informed by an old acquaintance that she has been bequeathed a whole villa in the South of France. It’s about 1928 now, and they haven’t seen each other since the 1860s. The family is asked to come check out the home, and there’s concern that the relatives of the old friend won’t want to give up their partnership. So Robert, his American-born wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and Robert’s prim butler Carson (Jim Carter) depart for Nice or thereabout.

Downton Abbey A New Era review

The Abbey is packed to the rafters with excited tourists. All of the top-crusters, as well as Carson, are aghast at the prospect of having vulgar “kinema” people stay there for a month. The servants, on the other hand, aren’t concerned. The filming company will pay an excellent fee to use the Abbey, and while money is tight now, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), one of Robert’s daughters who runs it, points out that the roof may need attention. Then the moviemakers arrive: attractive director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy), debonair leading man Guy (Dominic West), and stuck-up snob Myrna (Laura Haddock). While Guy has a lovely raspy voice, Myrna’s haughtiness notwithstanding, she has a genuine Cockney honk. You can just imagine where this is heading.

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If you can’t, more power to you. If you’re a member of the franchise’s core demo, however, you undoubtedly recall “Singin’ in the Rain.” Julian Fellowes’ screenplay is a shameless rip-off of that classic. Meanwhile, in the South of France, Nathalie Baye—former love interest of Johnny Hallyday, two-time collaborator with Godard, three-time collaborator with Truffaut—glowers as a widow who does not want these Brits on her villa lawn. Robert and his colleagues also try to figure out why the house was bequeathed to Violet.

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The film also develops several individual or dual narratives of beloved characters in search of fulfillments, which is mostly romantic in nature. Simon Curtis and Adam Recht deserve a lot of credit for cramming a tremendous amount of narrative into a picture that’s only a hair over 120 minutes long, including the introduction.

Trailer

Director

Simon Curtis

Writer

Julian Fellowes

Stars

Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech, Tuppence Middleton

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