Northwestern Press

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY FOCUS FEATURESMost of the TV show cast is back for “Downton Abbey” theatrical movie. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY FOCUS FEATURESMost of the TV show cast is back for “Downton Abbey” theatrical movie.

Movie Review: Down ‘Abbey’ road

Thursday, October 3, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

The movie, “Downton Abbey,” is the comfort food of cinema, albeit fine dining.

The big-screen version of “Downton Abbey,” the popular BBC television series (2010-2015) seen on PBS stations in the United States can be enjoyed by non-fans and especially by fans.

The movie is sumptuously lensed (director of photography Ben Smithard) with lovely vistas and elegant interior scenes and romantic, back-lit photography of featured characters, often sharp-witted humorous dialogue between characters, beautiful costumes (costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins), superb acting by all, and a plot of intrigue and consequences.

The reassuring strains of the “Downton Abbey” theme music is woven throughout the soundtrack by composer John Lunn, who utilizes strings to enhance dramatic moments.

Sure, it’s all pomp and circumstance, but for America’s royal-watchers and British history buffs, “Downton Abbey” charms and doesn’t disappoint.

Julian Fellowes, who created the characters for the television show, wrote the screenplay for the movie. He has created a terrific palette for the movie version.

The story, set in 1927 in the feature film, picks up with the eccentricities of the Crawley family and servants intact and sets up a storyline that reveals each, flaws and all. The upstairs, downstairs dynamic of the aristocrats and staff in the mansion is in full effect and provides a lot of the film’s inherent fun. Yes, the concerns of the characters are mostly trivial, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

The plot provides a neat device to set all in Downton Abbey a-flutter: the impending visit and then the actual visit of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) to the mansion of Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), Earl of Grantham, in the Yorkshire, England, countryside.

The royal staff supplants the Downton staff. The Queen’s Lady-in-waiting, Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) is at odds with Violet, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), There’s more lurking in the plot, but no spoilers here.

“Downton Abbey” the movie has the sense of the movies, “Clue” (1985) and “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), for its vast cast and engaging storyline, which unfolds in novelsitic form. “Downton Abbey” is a good read. Director Michael Engler has a jolly good time giving each character their time on the screen, admittedly limited for some actors because of the number of characters in the storyline.

The actors are delightful, especially, of course, Maggie Smith, as Violet Crawley. Smith’s verbal timing, impervious bearing and withering stare is a hoot. Smith deserves an actress Oscar nomination.

Dame Maggie Smith has been nominated for six Oscars and received a supporting actress Oscar for “California Suite” (1979) and an actress Oscar for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” (1969).

Allen Leech is a standout as Tom Branson, the still youthful widower. Tuppence Middleton is wonderful as Lucy Smith, a maid. Imelda Staunton creates a hateful character with a reason for her remorse as Maud Bagshaw. Jim Carter has some nice moments as Charles Carson, the retired butler who returns for a stint.

Other noteworthy turns include Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley), Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason, one of the kitchen help), Michael C. Fox (Andy Parker, a butler), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley ) Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow) and Kate Phillips (Princess Mary).

While there are no “secret scenes” during the credits, the forward-looking plot, and the No. 1 box office opening of “Downton Abbey,” indicates that a return visit to may be well in order.

“Downton Abbey,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for thematic elements, some suggestive material and language; Genre: Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 2 mins. Distributed by Focus Features.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Filming locations included Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England, the location for the television series.

Box Office, Sept. 27-29: The animation feature film comedy, “Abominable,” took over No. 1, opening with $20.8 million, moving out “Downton Abbey” from its one-week run at the top, dropping one place to No. 2 with $14.5 million, $58.5 million, two weeks.

3. “Hustlers” hustled up two places, $11.4 million, $80.6 million, three weeks. 4. ”It Chapter Two” stayed in place, $10.4 million, $193.9 million, four weeks. 5. “Ad Astra” dropped three places, opening, $10.1 million, $35.5 million, two weeks. 6. “Rambo: Last Blood” dropped three places, $8.5 million, $33.1 million, two weeks. 7. “Judy,” the Judy Garland biopic starring Renee Zellweger opened in limited release, $3 million, one week. 8. “Good Boys” dropped one place, $2 million, $80.3 million, seven weeks. 9. “The Lion King” dropped three places, $1.6 million, $540 million, 11 weeks. 10. “Angel Has Fallen” dropped two places, $1.5 million, $67.1 million, six weeks.

Unreel, Oct. 4:

“Joker,” R: Todd Phillips directs Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Jolie Chan in the Crime Thriller. Arthur Fleck is a man with psychological problems who seeks revenge, and that’s no joke.

“Lucy in the Sky,” R: Noah Hawley directs Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz and Dan Stevens in the Science-Fiction film. After an astronaut returns to Earth, she loses touch with reality.