Movie Review: Downton Abbey: A New Era

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PHOTO BY BEN BLACKALL / FOCUS FEATURES

It is so nice.

What better antidote to this cinematic moment, where levity is rare, than “Downton Abbey”, a fantasy of manners and dry wit? At each multiplex, one superhero or another holds the fate of the world in their hands every six weeks or so. It’s downright delightful, then, to watch a movie where the most disastrous possible outcome is someone being quietly offended.

In addition, everything is very pretty. Sometimes you just want to look at something pretty.

This chapter of the British franchise, subtitled ‘A New Era’, is set in 1928, as simple hints of modernity creep into the mansion. There are two potential shocks to the current system: In what’s being called a real scandal, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) has inherited a villa on the French Riviera from a man who may or may not be a lover. long lost; Meanwhile, needing funds to repair and maintain Downton, Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) reluctantly agrees to let a film crew into the property.

The old plot directs the action, as a group of Crawley and associates heads to France to investigate the inheritance; insofar as there’s any suspense in the film, it’s about the impending revelation of Violet’s secrets (a non-trivial matter for her son, Robert, who finds reason to question his parentage). The arrival of movie stars is mostly subplot and comic relief, as the intrusion outrages the more staid members of the house and provides a series of thrills for the staff.

What is there to criticize? The story moves, the dialogue (from series creator Julian Fellowes) crackles and the performers charm. It’s all beautifully shot (veteran Andrew Dunn is the cinematographer), better allowing audiences to imagine themselves as minor nobility in an impossibly lush, bygone setting – and the infusion of even more southern splendor. of France only enhances the fantasy.

A killjoy would make a point about the indulgence of nobility, the inherent inequity displayed, or the lasting negative consequences of this particular brand of wealth fetishization, but I’m not (always) a killjoy. Criticizing the economy of “Downton Abbey” is as absurd as criticizing “Mortal Kombat” for focusing on the fighting. It’s escapism in its purest form – a mental bath offering a release valve for a very weary world.

And – to reiterate the important point – it’s very, very nice.

My rating: 8/10

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” opens in theaters Friday, May 20.

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