of MIKE ORLOCK
Downton Abbey: A New Era (PG) begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral.
If you are familiar with the successful show that aired on PBS from 2010 to 2015 or with the first film of 2019 that continued the epic of Lord Grantham and his family and the many servants who worked in the huge big house that sat as a museum in Yorkshire countryside, you can probably guess who gets stuck in the first few minutes of this new dose, which successfully brings the family back to the turbulent 1930s. their flirtations in the vortex of activity that accompanied the king’s visit to the previous film.)
You can probably guess who the loser is, but there will be no spoilers from me on this score. To borrow from the lord’s dictionary, this would not be cricket.
A new era, once again written by the creator of the series Julian Fellowes, splits his time into two stories and two locations: Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), the de facto director of Downton Abbey, opens the house to a film crew who will pay a hefty fee to use it in a new film starring The Bold Guy Dexter (Dominic West, playing the rake with a sly smile under a thin pencil mustache) and the glamorous Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock in full diva mode).
Lord Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is stunned by Mary’s decision until he shows him the state of the estate – and the amount of money Lion Pictures chief Jack Barber (Hugh Duncy) is willing to pay.
Fortunately, Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) just unexpectedly inherited a villa on the French Riviera from an old security guard and needs inspection. Violet plans to leave this new property to Tom’s little daughter, Sybbie, so Robert, wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), daughter Edith (Laura Carmichael), newlyweds (Allen Leech and Tuppence Middleton) and several servants with head the crust. Carson (Jim Carter) embarks on a short vacation / honeymoon / business trip to another large estate, only this one overlooks the Mediterranean and is staffed by (skies!) French.
There they receive the cold shoulder from Mme de Montmirail (Nathalie Baye), who is upset that this extraordinary fortune from her estranged husband goes to an English family. but a warmer welcome from the Marquis (Jonathan Zaccaï), who hints that there may be more than a brief affair between the Granthams and the Montmirails.
Meanwhile, back in Downton, the film’s production suddenly turns when the studio decides, in the wake of the overwhelming success of the first speakers (The jazz singer and The Terror), to make their film a talking image.
This leads to complications similar to the fake film-in-film from the classic musical Singing in the rainwith Lady Mary lending her sad voice to keep the play alive, and the cast of favorite maids and cooks and butlers and pedestrians (you know who they are) coming to the rescue when the movie crew riots.
Journeyman Director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn, Goodbye Christopher Robin) keeps things light and alive, even when the movie ends in tragedy, which is a great trick for a franchise as familiar as this. A New Era enters the toes on new ground for the Granthams and their extended family instead of rushing incessantly, but it does not matter. I suspect this is not the last time we will visit Downton Abbey.
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