Review: Downton Abbey Movie (no spoilers)
About a month ago I excitedly pre-ordered my tickets to see the Downton Abbey movie, and last week was the big day. The theater was completely full, which stood out because I cannot remember the last time that theater was totally sold out.
There were women there dressed up with fascinators in their hair, and other women clearly having a girls' night in large groups. My husband and sister went with me, and my husband was one of maybe 5 men in the theater, which always surprises me because the men I know love the show!
I went into the movie with hesitation because the series was so well done that you always worry they will jump the shark, so to speak, in an effort to milk a good thing. However, I also didn't go in cynically, so I was hesitant but hopeful that the movie would be a delight.
Whereas the TV series is like the long unwinding of a great epic novel, where the subplots slowly twist together and you learn about the characters over long periods of time, the movie was more like peeking in on a single chapter.
The series let story lines build and play out over numerous episodes, and each one brought out the personal story of one of the characters. I think back to season six and the drawn out hospital story line. I read many bad reviews of this, but the purpose was not to just tell the story of who got to run the hospital. It illustrated the underlying political and social changes. It brought out passion in the characters. It got you to better understand their motives. That was the great thing about the TV series.
The movie is more like going in and already knowing the characters and you pop the cover on a specific chapter and you see their lives briefly. The series left us on New Years Day of 1926. As the trailers showed - no spoilers here - the movie plunks you down somewhere in 1927. So we see the resolution of certain former story lines at play (such as Edith in her new life). We get to see a glimpse of the way their former stories played out (such as the role change for Carson at the end of the series). In still very much Julian Fellowes fashion, the stories are classy, telling and well executed, but they don't build up the characters in the same way. How could they? How can you describe the change in a character in two hours the way you could over six seasons (such as Daisy, going from young girl kitchen maid to grown woman and independent thinker 14 years later)?
But the movie was elegant, interesting and fit so properly with the series that it was like it was pulled out of the fabric of the series as a highlight of their lives. There were touching moments, and there were moments of absolutely hilarity - the aristocratic zingers had not lost their edge! I love how it gave some bright moments to some characters who had their stories left open to the imagination at the end of the series.
As a stand alone movie, it was well worth the two hours invested. It had everything you'd expect in a movie. But compared to the entire work of the series, it does pale a little in comparison. Which truthfully might be just what one would hope for, that two hours cannot stack up against six years of great content.