Downton Abbey: A New Era is the period response to Ted Lasso | Movie reviews and news | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events
One wonders if Americans will ever tire of the up-and-down intrigues of the people of Downton Abbey.
So long as it prevents us from recognizing our built-in American class system, maybe not. It’s just too delicious to imagine that old-world Brits have a monopoly on social class and that we unfettered Yanks have escaped all that nonsense.
The aristocrats and scullery class of Julian Fellowes return to the big screen with plenty of new adventures, romances, strife and class snobbery – most of it coming from the crowd below. Downtown Abbey: A New Era boasts the kind of overloaded plot reminiscent of lesser Victorian-era novels, where countless plot lines are introduced only to be stitched together beautifully at the end. Fast-paced, occasionally silly and action-packed, this is the Downtown for short attention spans.
A five-year-old Public Broadcasting Service television series, Downton Abbey had spawned a previous film, a satisfying 2019 version directed by Michael Engler, which revived the Crawleys in the Roaring Twenties. Now comes the follow-up, A New Era, set circa 1929 and directed by Simon Curtis with composer John Lunn’s plum-themed music like fondant on a delicious cake, taking us back to the world worthy of dressing up for dinner and an ironclad servant pecking Command.
Happiness and normality seem to reign like A new era opens with the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton). This allows for a reminder of all the key players in the saga, captured in black and white photographs at the wedding.
But peace does not reign for long. Two fat kerfuffles define this Downtown.
While the first film tore Crawley Manor apart with the arrival of the King and Queen of England and their haughty help, here the intruders are of a different order. The British Lion Film Company, tired of using backlots, wants to shoot its latest silent production The Gambler in Downtown. While the idea of red-faced, threadbare actors wandering the halls is off-putting to the endlessly sniffing Earl of Grantham Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), there’s that leaky roof to fix and other unsexy business to sort out. , notes her daughter, the infinitely practical Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery).
Then a subplot emerges. A previously unknown Marquess has bequeathed a villa in France to the Dowager Countess of Grantham Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), possibly in recognition of their cut short romance.
In the type of mildly comedic culture shock that makes stories such as Emily in Paris sing, the stuffy Brits take on the far more laissez-faire French as Robert and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) travel with relatives and servants to the villa in question. Carson (Jim Carter) is particularly irritated by the French manner and takes it upon himself to illustrate their failings in good taste. It’s the same tension exploited in Fellowes’ American class drama, The Golden age between the Russell estate’s new butler and the former Van Rhijn butler, who better understands the intricacies of a well-laid British-style table.
Sex is at the heart of every plot. The movie stars – including Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock), Cockney’s beautiful and cruel first lady – and the director introduce a thrill of fantasy and sexual desire to the ranks. Lady Mary becomes intrigued by handsome director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) and other family members take an interest in the Ice Queen star and her debonair, pencil-moustached man Guy Dexter (flat Dominic West). Although they profess a distaste for the sordid art of “kinema”, as Robert Crawley pronounces it, they are nevertheless delighted and curious about the whole process, the frenetic cinema, the magic of cinema that quickly changes from silent to talking .
At a time Downtown and the Golden age, Fellowes opted for an entertaining format in which determined women lead the action. Take, for example, the inimitable Violet Crawley, rich in good words, detours and carefully crafted remarks. She’s a matriarch’s humdinger. Violet secures future generations of matriarchs by bequeathing her French villa to Sybbie (Fifi Hart), who is the only granddaughter without a magnificent estate. Fellowes gives his senior deans the agency as well as crackling lines. His determined women tend to have the utmost business acumen and, in every way, save the day. Meanwhile, the men often wring their hands and fidget, all namby-pamby, like Robert Crawley and his downstairs double, Mr. Carson.
Lady Mary in Downtown also proves to be particularly adept at steering the ship, devising a way to save The Gambler’s production from the onset of the Sound Age and finding himself effortlessly in the film. His less stylish sister Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) – Jan at Mary’s Marcia – resurrects her career as a journalist with a ‘scoop’ (Watergate it’s not) centered on how the upper crust now spends its summers in the south of France, a story she begins to write while visiting Violet’s villa.
Another wellness hot bath in the middle of the British, A new era feels like a response period to Ted Lasso, an equally sweet confection in which simple goodness still prevails and everyone behaves relatively well. Even the Labradors of Downtown keep their paws off the furniture, and cocky movie stars turn out to have soft hearts hidden away.