Starring: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Dominic West, Michelle Dockery, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Dancy, Penelope Wilton, Alan Leach, Tuppance Middleton, Robert James Collier, and Joanne Frogatte.
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Where I Watched it: Peacock
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Just What Exactly is This Thing About?: The cast of Downton Abbey enters a new era, against all probabilities, because the last film made a ton of money. This sequel jugggles a ton of characters with diverging plots, one revolving around Downton being used as a location for a silent film shoot, and the other with Lady Soon To Die being the recipient of a villa in France because she used to know a guy.
Will I Like it? Did You Like it?: Well, that’s going to be entirely up to you. Here’s the thing. I never watched the series, and have only watched the movies. I remember sitting through the first film and finding it a bit challenging to follow everything going on because it had the largest cast of characters you’re supposed to know everything about already. The sequel keeps all those characters, and introduces not just all of the people that come along with the film crew, but the characters down in France as well.
If you are well versed in Downton, you should theoretically be fine. If you’re like me, and have only seen the movies, that’s going to be a stretch. And if for some godforsaken reason you’ve never seen the TV show, or the first film, and are thinking about watching this… I have some swampland to sell you before you make that terrible life choice.
I know that Americans were obsessed with this show, like they are now obsessed with Bridgerton. We jsut love watching rich British people do things. But the actual structure of this is not great. There’s a super clunky gay romance that has zero chemistry and serves potentially as a reason for a cast member to just not be available should they make a third film.
in fact, this whole film seems to be setting up certain characters with emergency parachutes should a third film be greenlit so they don’t have to come back. And I don’t blame them. A lot of this cast is up there in age, especially Maggie Smith, whose characters death is telegraphed poorly through subtext and foreshadowing with the heaviest of hands. Not only is it clear that Maggie Smith, at 87, is done with this nonsense, but most of her scenes were limited to one room. I’m fairly certain her entire shoot was done in 2 or 3 days tops. But don’t worry, when we get there, Downton is very aware of who the biggest draw is, and the moment is drawn out and given a proper chunk of the films time.
Her entire story arc is about resolving this one last thing, as she’s preparing the final parts of her will, and deciding who gets what. The next in line to Downton, is very aware she’s next in line, and talks about it. Did I spoil this for you? Perhaps. But if you were watching the movie, you’d feel like you were waiting an endless amount of time for this obvious transition. I kept expecting it, and the film would just find another scene to squeez in with other characters doing whatever.
I like movies about movies, so I enjoyed the element about having to transition a silent film to a “talkie”, and the fact that I didn’t need to know the backstories of the film characters for the film within the film was nice.
I can’t actually say if you’ll like it or not, because I think the more entrenched you are in Downton the more you will like it. However, even that is tested, as I don’t think this was as strong as the first film was.
The Blind Perspective: I do love how we here in America, the good folk at Peacock treat audio description and credits as an afterthought. I couldn’t watch ANY credits. When the films title card drops at the end, I didn’t get even the director. No cast. No producers. no credits. It ripped me out of this film and shoved me into whatever it assumed I would want to watch next.
But the most hilarious thing is how quintessentially American the narrator was for the most quintessential British thing that Americans really only love because of just how British it is. All those blind Anglophiles out there will find their trip to Downton upended because we couldn’t find anyone nearly as stuffy as anyone in the cast.
The narration is fine, but it just misses the mark on why people watch Downton Abbey, and it’s not for American voices. Though, it will be really easy to tell who is narrating, and who is in the cast. She stood out like a sore thumb.
Final Thoughts: Typically, I use this grade as a middle of the road representation. I would neither recommend or not recommend this film. I would neither give it fresh, nor rotten. I believe my own enjoyment of this film was influenced by how little I know about this series, and other people will adore this. Others, might hate it even more than me. But one thing is certain, there are flaws here, that even I can see as an outsider. Just the way a script comes together, really basic things. So, I’m confident enough you won’t be missing out on an Oscar nominee.
Final Grade: C