A visit to Downton Abbey always seems to be pleasant and unassuming.
That doesn’t sound like much … but it’s what we need now. “Downton Abbey: A New Era” (shown here) is not a great movie (or even an exceptionally good one), but it’s still worth catching.
For a couple hours, we’re in splendid settings, re-meeting people who – flaws and all – are good and well-meaning.
The film starts sluggishly, with a dispassionate wedding and then some stiff scenes about an unexpected windfall. “New Era” seems determined to show us everyone – it’s a HUGE cast – while getting us involved with no one. Clearly, something more is needed. We get that, when a movie is filmed in the mansion, at the very end of the silent-film era.
This is where the fun comes, with neat plot twists for Lady Mary (shown here) and others … and some strong counterpoint from Violet, played by the wonderful Maggie Smith, 87.
Violet isn’t impressed that movies are adding sound. “I would think the best thing about them is that you can’t hear them,” she says (approximately). “It would be even better if you couldn’t see them.”
She propels this movie in ways that won’t happen again. It’s a strong reminder that this combination – solid dialog given to interesting characters played by skilled actors – can be enough.
By the end, we’re glad we left our semi-grungy world for a while and visited their elegant one. And we’re really glad that movies have sound and pictures and bright colors splashed across huge screens.