Why do you go to the movies? I know that for me, sometimes I simply want to enjoy a movie that altogether isn't that great. I know that I'll feel good watching it, even if I wouldn't put it on a list of the 100 best films ever made. One example of this is the movie Leap Year, with Matthew Goode and Amy Adams. It's not a masterpiece - but it made me smile. Another example? Downton Abbey.
I have watched every episode of the British television show...even through its less entertaining seasons. I was a fan of the first two seasons and even the third, but the next few seasons took a steep nosedive until the last few episodes when things began to wrap up. Much of the drama with Anna and Bates, for example, was horribly upsetting, unsettling, and unnecessary, while the marriage of Carson and Mrs. Hughes was a perfect ending to the show. I even went to the Downton Abbey exhibit when it was on display in New York, enjoying every moment.
So when it was announced that there would be a Downton Abbey movie, I knew I wanted to see it. After Faith Moore invited me onto her podcast to discuss it, I went to the Alamo Drafthouse, bought one ticket, and sat down in the theater next to another woman who had no one to see it with. So I guess that tells you one thing: Downton Abbey is probably not meant for your male partner.
The movie opens as the show always did, with a lot of hustle and bustle leading up to reuniting with our main characters. We find out rather quickly that the King and Queen are coming to Downton. As you can imagine, that is the catalyst for the rest of the film: the King's servants treat the Downton servants like pests and try to take over operations; Edith's husband is invited to travel with the prince right after Edith discovers she's pregnant; Mary and Tom have to deal with an assassination attempt on the King; and Tom finally meets a young woman he can envision a future with.
First of all, it's lovely to see all of the characters we've grown to know and love back together on the big screen. It feels as if everything is even more grand than the show itself - the sweeping shots are now even more sweeping, the costumes more luscious, the characters more witty, the music more entrancing. And the twists and turns that were a signature of the show are back in the movie - although they are so obvious that they can be seen as soon as the hint is dropped.
But with so much going on and only two hours to tell the entire story, the movie sort of feels like a season's worth of material crammed into one episode. I planned on taking notes during the movie, but each interaction was so short that I literally didn't have time to consider a thought before we were moving on to the next character's drama. There are so many characters that we care about, so many stories to tell, that you feel like you're in a whirlwind, simply trying to keep up. In one particular scene, Mary stops by Carson's house to invite him back to Downton to help with the preparations before the King's arrival. She says that she can only stop by briefly - and the scene itself is so brief that it doesn't feel as if that was the character's choice, but rather a decision made by the screenwriter to make the scene as short as possible so as to fit in everything else.
With the focus very heavily put on the conflict between the King's servants and Downton's, as well as on Tom getting his happy ending, it was interesting to note that less attention was paid to the Crawley family than I had anticipated. Mary's struggle with change as the head of Downton was touchingly displayed, though, and I appreciated the attention paid to the question we, as the audience, had been struggling with. And it's always fun to hear Maggie Smith as Dowager Violet spewing witticisms at the other elderly women surrounding her, despite her story line regarding a cousin of whom we had never heard being rather silly. Of course, one moment at the end of the film is bound to have you in tears if you've been watching the show since the beginning, and rightfully so. It's well-written and kind and sweet - but I won't spoil it for you.
So is it enjoyable? Yes! It was visually stunning, the music was beautiful, and it was so much fun to reunite with these characters. But is it good? Well, don't watch all six seasons of Downton Abbey just so you can see the movie.
What did you think? Did you enjoy the movie or watch the show? Let me know in the comments down below, and make sure to watch Faith Moore's podcast!
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