The beloved series, Downton Abbey concluded in 2015 and subsequently released a movie sequel, Downton Abbey in 2019. After the major success of the first film, this month Downton Abbey: A New Era released to theaters.
Known for its quiet, restrained form of drama and its celebration of propriety, Downton Abbey is not a natural fit for the big screen let alone a sequel. But the fans are rabidly loyal and can never seem to get enough of the Crowley family.
The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Downton Abbey: A New Era
Overall rating: Full fan service
Downton Abbey: A New Era was far from groundbreaking. The film was designed to play fan service to the series’ very loyal fans and it did exactly that. The film is all soft edges and charming dialog and while the plot line covers some fun new adventures for the family, it does not attempt to create new ground on which to stand.
Since its mission was nothing but fan service, it is this mission on which the film is primarily judged (by me). It absolutely filled the hearts of viewers who have missed the Crowley family and their fancy upstairs/downstairs lifestyle so far removed from anything we have ever seen in America. Downton Abbey: A New Era wrapped up character arcs and plot lines in a tidy happy bow and left viewers to cherish all their perfectly packaged memories.
It was rightly the film equivalent of a lightly sweetened cup of tea.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Dreamy and conversational
Downton Abbey: A New Era created two dueling plot lines much in the style of the series so viewers were treated to a trip to the south of France as well as a film being shot at Downton and all the quippy fun that comes from those scenarios. It was a wise choice to focus on multiple primary plot lines because it gave the film an opportunity to opt out of beating a dead horse. The film spends just enough time on each to keep things moving and keep things fun.
It was a little long. At over two hours, it might have benefitted the story to trim a few moments and rein the film into the length just short of two traditional episodes. But overall the film was a joyful and comfortable watch that any Downton fan would enjoy.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Beautifully pedestrian
Everything about the film was lovely from the acting to the costumes to the beautiful scenery to the familiar score. The film’s makers were careful as always in choosing and updating their costumes to reflect the correct materials and silhouettes of the timeframe. Because the family traveled to the south of France, viewers were also treated to mediterranean styles of clothes from the era which featured beautiful bright silks and perfectly crisp linens as well as the forever fashionable panama hat.
The acting did its job with all the familiar favorites and the wonderful addition of Hugh Dancy as the filmmaker Jack Barber. There was no material worth any particular merit for any of the actors except that they all did a wonderful job presenting themselves like old friends viewers have missed and are catching up with.
Some of the plot line was regurgitated from prior Downton Abbey plot lines either by accident or intentionally. If intentionally, it was unclear that the choice was intentional and really just seemed vaguely uncreative. Some of the plot lines were also stolen from other famous films which may have been an homage to the era and was a pretty cute choice. Cute or not, it’s nothing original. No one stretched their brain very far to make this film work.
It was a perfectly adequate and pedestrian movie that was extremely nice to look at.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: No agenda
In the series there are more political ideas which were relevant to the time and remain relevant today regarding class, opportunity, justice, etc. Downton Abbey: A New Era doesn’t tackle any of those elements to much of an extent except sort of a vagule pro-charity comment here and there.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is warm and cozy fan service worth watching for fans of the show. Maybe not for those who didn’t like the show or haven’t seen it.