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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Civilized, Posh, Elegant & Well-Mannered
by James Colt Harrison

Born out of the world-wide smash hit television series and from the talented writer Julian Fellowes, the new motion picture Downton Abbey hits the big screen filled with beauty. The series kept fans fascinated for five years. Each episode was looked forward to anxiously because viewers wanted to see what shenanigans the various cast members would get tangled up in every week. The television series made stars of relatively unknown British actors, with the exception of such established veterans as Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery and American actress Elizabeth McGovern.

Julian Fellowes is so adept at creating well fleshed-out characters that audiences fell in love with most of them or adopted them as their favorites  as the series of intriguing stories unfolded. Even the kitchen staff created   loveable characters in head cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol), the dour Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), head butler Charles Carson (Jim Carter), bad-boy Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), the whiney maid Daisy (Sophie McShera), and Anna (who later married Mr. Bates), who was played by pretty blonde actress Joanne Froggatt. And we can’t forget the evil-minded trouble-maker and closeted gay staffer, the young and handsome Thomas Barrow, played to perfection by Robert James Collier. Memorable characters all, and they are all on board in the film to bring back memories for fans and to create new ones.

What causes a crisis in the Crawley family might not be a crisis in an ordinary clan. But they are the infamous Crawley family, residents of the fabulous home of Downton Abbey. The entire staff is all in a dither because the Royal Family, consisting of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) and their entourage, is coming for a visit and a stay overnight. That would send any kitchen staff and the maids into a catastrophic stroke just being in the King and Queen’s presence. But the catch is that the Royals have brought their own staff and want them to take over. This does not go down well with cook Mrs. Patmore and head mistress Mrs. Hughes. Some delightful comedy arises when the staff rebels and plots how they can serve the King and Queen and not have to deal with the bothersome royal cooks and butlers.

A surprisingly lot of romance gets woven into the plot. Irishman Tom Branson (Allen Leech) fancies Susie Smith (Tuppence Middleton), Lady Bagshaw’s (Imelda Staunton) maid. There’s real chemistry between them, and they make an adorable and sweet match-up. On the other side of the coin, Thomas Barrow (Robert James Collier), who is now Head Butler for the Crawleys, found a companion on the Royal staff who fancies him and serves to save his reputation under the anti-gay 1927 London laws.

Almost everyone’s favorite character, Dowager Countess of Grantham, played with a razor-sharp tongue by Oscar® winning actress and British treasure Maggie Smith, doesn’t disappoint. She has a rapier retort for just about everyone, and writer Julian Fellowes has thrown her all the best lines -- and deservedly so.

The production design by Donal Woods and costume design by Anna Robbins looks exquisite.

Downton Abbey emerges as perhaps the most civilized, elegant, posh and well-mannered film to be made in many years.

(Released by Focus Features and rated “PG” for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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