Published on: October 4, 2019
It was preordained that I was going to see the film version of Downton Abbey
when it opened. No way I was going to miss it.
Longtime MNB readers may remember that I resisted watching the TV series for a long time, despite persistent entreaties by Mrs. Content Guy. Finally, she looked at me and said, "Look, I've gone to countless movies over the years that I had no desire to see, but you wanted to, and so we went. I'm asking you to watch this with me, and I think you should suck it up and do it."
Well, I know when I've been outmaneuvered. I also know when I'm wrong. So we started binge watching the series, and I loved it. (I really, really hate it when I'm wrong.)
Now, several years after the series ended, Downton Abbey
is back as a feature film. To be honest, it sort of plays like two or three episodes strung together - all the familiar faces and attitudes are in place, and while the production values are helped by a larger budget, the improvement is marginal. This always was an entertainment that was lovingly produced, and so with the exception of a lot more aerial shots (presumably accomplished through the use of drone cameras), it looks pretty much the same, which is to say, great, and evocative of a time long gone by.Downton Abbey
takes place in 1927, and the driving plot point is the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the estate and all the rouble it creates for the aristocratic Crawley family (Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, and, of course, Maggie Smith among them) and the domestic help (Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Phyllis Logan, and Joanne Froggatt, et al,) that keep the mansion running smoothly.
One of the things that the movie continues to do well is show what happens when tradition runs up against progress. The TV series' first season took place in 1912; in fact, the first episode takes place on the day after the sinking of the Titanic. There is, of course, a sense throughout the series and the movie that we are watching an endangered time, that the social, cultural and economic systems that seem so ingrained and immutable eventually will dissolve. In many ways - especially in its treatment of women - the series showed the slow erosion of certain attitudes. Sure, there is a long way to go, but we can see the seeds of change being planted when it comes to the ruination of Britain's class system.
The movie version of Downton Abbey
doesn't deal with this as specifically - in text and subtext - as the series did, but then, it has a lot less time during which to tell its stories. But it is all there, and while it is possible to feel both a bit of sadness and relief in knowing we are watching shadows that eventually fade into memory.
I have no idea if people who never saw the TV series will get or enjoy Downton Abbey
. Maybe it doesn't matter - the movie is enough of a (surprise!) hit that there already is talk of another one.
And I'll be there to watch that one, too.
With Mrs. Content Guy. Of course.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend.
I'm off to Indianapolis for the GMDC Selfcare Summit, where I'll be moderating two sessions that we'll be turning into Retail Tomorrow podcasts. Can't wait.