Downton Abbey: The Movie

Cora: “Just like the old days.”

Sometimes, when a series ends, a subsequent movie is essential. The movie may tie up loose ends and allow the story to come to some kind of a neat conclusion. Sometimes, however, a movie is not needed (or, frankly, even wanted) and can rather mar the memory of what was once great.

Downton Abbey was great and I loved it. For six seasons, I faithfully followed and reported upon the comings and goings of the Grantham household. It all ended beautifully in a nice, neat package wrapped in a fairy tale bow. The story did not feel incomplete; in fact, I thought the ending was excellent for what the show had been.

I will admit, however, to great excitement when I heard a movie was being made and I almost swooned the first time I saw the trailer. I was sure that going back to visit all those people I had loved so much was going to be a treat. I was wrong.

One of the reasons the show worked so well is that it was told as a series of books/seasons broken down into chapters/episodes. A movie is a very different form of storytelling and it just did not work for me. Throughout, I felt that Julian Fellowes, the writer, was trying too hard to recreate what had once worked so well. But instead of long moments that built on each other and allowed the characters to really shine through, he had to hurry through the moments and, therefore, they lost too much depth and feeling. The whole movie felt rushed and forced, not at all the gentle ride that the show had been.

It would have been significantly better if Fellowes had picked one story and stuck with it. Instead, we had far too many subplots: the assassination that Tom manages to prevent; all the stealing (did anyone really not know what was going on?); Edith’s husband may have to be away as she gives birth (which flies in the face of how she gave birth the last time); Violet scheming for even more money when the truth of the situation was crystal clear from the beginning; Andy and the boiler which was beyond absurd; the princess who is unhappily married, but then decides to stay married (why?); Lady Mary whining about the future of the estate.

The one subplot I was glad to see was Thomas at the gay club. This is a story that should have been told at length about a character we love (or love to hate) and which, if it had been stretched out a bit, would have been lovely. Instead, it was all way too rushed and hard to truly fall for.

I had a real problem with the way that Fellowes portrayed the downstairs crew this time. Thomas was pushed aside because Mary wanted Carson back (and Fellowes had to get him back). The current butler seemed to take it pretty well considering he was being told he could not do his job. The scene that really annoyed me, however, was Molesley being so obsequious as he served dinner. The man is a schoolteacher for the love of all that’s holy. He should never have been portrayed in such a manner.

My biggest quibble was Violet. Not only did her zingers not zing, but that whole scene with Mary at the end had me rolling my eyes. I understand that we were meant to be moved, but I was left oddly cold by the whole thing. Even worse, the movie went out on her looking wistful (seriously!) while the final lines were given to Carson and Mrs. Hughes.

This is not a movie I will watch again. What it did, however, was draw me back to the show itself. I left the theater, rushed home, and re-watched Anna declare her love for Bates, Sybil and Tom finally decide to run away together, and Matthew and Mary’s engagement in the snow. I was reminded of why I had loved this show so much in the first place.

Bits and Bobs:

-- The missing: Mr. Mason, Denker and Spratt, Laura (making room for Susan I suspect), Rose, Mrs. Levinson, and many of the minor characters who appeared over the years.

-- Watching this movie, I kept thinking that what we were watching was truly the beginning of the end. The Crash and the Depression are right around the corner, not to mention the Second World War. I would have preferred a massive jump in time to the early 1940s than the rehash that we got.

1 comment:

MochaJay said...

I have got to agree there was no point to this movie. Gosford Park exists! It's a great film, and feels fresh every time I watch it - far more so than Downton did in its later seasons