Downton Abbey, the Film

I admit I was worried that the film wouldn’t meet my expectations. Perhaps it wouldn’t translate to the silver screen.

The main plot involves the Crawley’s hosting the King and Queen of England (Elizabeth II’s grandparents). Will they be up to the task? What will go wrong?

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By framing the story around this glorious event, writer Julian Fellowes hit the target. It’s a story that puts both the family and the servants in a tizzy. Since perfection’s required, Carson’s called out of retirement as the once sneaky Barrows isn’t experienced enough as butler. As the residents of Downton unite, conflict enters in the form of the supercilious royal servant staff. They elbow our favorite servants into a corner. No cooking for Mrs. Patmore. Poor Mr. Mosley, who’s taken time off from his teaching to return to serve, won’t get to. The royals bring all their food, drink and personnel.

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A suspicious stranger comes to town and starts sniffing around Tom, the Irish son-in-law. What is this man who booked a room over the parade path in town up to? How will he implicate Tom?

Other subplots include Violet’s scheming to get a cousin to leave her fortune and property to Robert. Violet is beside herself when it seems that a maid will get everything.

Lonely Thomas may at last find understanding and possibly love (in a sequel?) but not till after surviving a very close call.

Widower Tom is pivotal in the film. He’s tied up with the mysterious strangerr, befriends the maid who’s to inherit a fortune and offers sage advice to a distraught royal.

It’s good fun to see this familiar cast again. Edith’s life has improved dramatically now that she’s married. Her problems are manageable, rich girl problems now that she’s away from Mary and has moved out and upward in status.

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Violet and Isobel spar with wit. The saddest scene takes place towards the end between Violet and Mary.

The pacing was brisk and the film was clever and entertaining. With a such a large cast it’s hard to get everyone a good part. Mr. Bates didn’t have much to do and Mary’s husband was out of the country most of the time.

As usual the costumes and sets were amazing. Lots of delights for the eyes. It’s a film that’s sure to delight Downton fans, which is its aim.

Désiré

Released in 1937 starring Sacha Guitry, Désiré is a comedy about a French woman and her household staff. Odette is a former actress who’s beau is a government Minister. Her staff includes a cook, a maid, a chauffeur we never see, but lacks a valet. The night before Odette, played by Guitry’s wife at the time, and her beau are to leave for the countryside, a chatty, meticulous valet comes to interview for the job. His references are impeccable and he’s hired. God forbid the couple goes to the country without a valet.

In the kitchen Désiré gets to know the maid and the cook. He’s very professional about his job and the hardest worker of the group, but also shares lots of observations about employers e.g. in a couple days a servant knows his employer well. In a year the servant can predict the employer’s every move and thought, yet after employing a servant for 5 years the employer probably doesn’t even know the servant’s last name. Touché.

Désiré’s previous employer intimates that while he was impeccable at his job, he made sexual overtures and therefore was let go. Odette is ready to send him packing but he persuades her to trust that it’ll never happen again.

All goes well until madam starts having dreams of Désiré making overtures. Her beau hears her calling out his name. Meanwhile Désiré also has dreams and the maid hears him calling out. Both don’t know what to do and try to hide the problem as best they can.

Désiré is a farce done with wit and intelligence. It makes some good points and is something of a counterpoint to Downton Abbey. Here the characters smoke and joke and toy with each other.  Guitry is a fine comic actor who held my interest from start to finish.

Violence

I really can’t take gory violence in any way, shape or form. Suspenseful, off-screen, more psychological violence is another matter. I do love cop shows: Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone, Columbo, The Closer, and the extraordinary Sherlock and Luther.

But there’s a line that’s been crossed — and the idea of people accepting pain in a psychologically disastrous way– is it. This season, sad to say, The Good Wife has crossed this line with their story of Kalinda, the investigator. She’s a tough woman and often saves the day.

This season we’ve had to see her sadistic ex-husband return and mess with her. She tries to stay away, but she also toys with him and enjoys some of the masochistic activities. It shows her as partially liking them so it turns my stomach.

Otherwise the show is smart and engaging, but I can read or watch something else. To continue down this seedy path just isn’t good for my psyche or soul. I hope this storyline soon plays itself out. Then I’ll be back.

I’m also struggling to watch two Asian films and the violence gets to me. The Korean film The Housemaid chronicles the story of a somewhat innocent, somewhat not woman who take a job as a housemaid for a very cold- hearted, rich family. The wife is materialistic, vacuous consumer, the husband a heartless, womanizing consumer. They’re both users, cold blooded users. The wife is pregnant with her second child. The daughter is about 6 or 7 and she’s like a little robot.

There’s also a middle aged stern woman who manages the household and eavesdrops for a cold hearted mother-in-law. The husband makes sexual advances towards the housemaid, who’s interested in him, though he treats her like a prostitute, like dirt. The mother-in-law finds out the maid is pregnant and “accidentally” kicks over a ladder the maid is on so she falls two floors. It’s manipulative, vicious and reptilian.

Though the film is beautiful and I thought a way to learn more about Korean culture. I paused it a week ago and can’t bring myself to watch more.

After pausing The Housemaid, I started watching The Drummer from Hong Kong. The image on Netflix made it seem like it would be a film about a traditional drummer.

Nope. It’s about a rock star who sleeps with a gangster’s girlfriend. The gangster finds them together and assigns the drummer’s father to bring him his hands. Yep, small world, the drummer’s father is a gangster, who works for the cuckolded king pin. The drummer goes on the run and his father tracks him down. The scene where the father goes to his daughter’s vet clinic and roughs her up, breaking a few of her teeth, was too much for me. Good Lord.

I remember a conversation with a Chinese man who said in China violence is viewed as beautiful, like a ballet. Whoa. Now you’ve lost me. Just like a scene with a father beating on his daughter so she could tell him where he could find his son to kill him is too much for me. And I’m fine with that.