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.

Downton Abbey, Season 5

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This season the story has been inching along, particularly during the last two episodes. The biggest event last night for me was when the art historian cum bounder went into Cora’s bedroom proposing a roll in the hay, though he put it more obliquely. Wouldn’t you know Robert returned early from his function. He was shocked to see Cora and Mr. Bricker in a tete-a-tete – in their pjs to boot. When Bricker suggested that since he was giving Cora the attention she needed his proposition was to be expected. Robert hauled off and hit him. Bravo!

Since I do believe Cora isn’t miserable in her marriage, and is just going through a period of ennui where she needs some direction or a new endeavor, Bricker’s been more of an annoyance than anything else. I am glad Fellows didn’t have Cora jump into bed with the art historian, but I also wish Cora would have more to do in the show. Perhaps she would find out about Edith and would have to deal with her feelings of being in the dark when both Violet and Rosamund have known.

On to Edith, I’m getting tired of the same old problem of her visiting the farm to see her daughter each week. Edith’s so mopey, though she sees Marigold more often than Mary seems to see George, which is odd. Or rather it’s odd to me because currently children are so central in a mother’s life. That wasn’t always the case. (In His Second Wife, the heroine mentioned not wanting to be a slave to her children. Different eras have different attitudes towards parenting.) How I wish Edith would throw herself into work and writing. She could take up the cause of single mothers or orphans. I wish this character had more facets.

I’m delighted that Robert stormed off when Miss Bunting rudely insisted that Mrs. Patmore and Daisy had to come up to the dining room so she could speak with them. Robert was right in my estimation since even after her hosts bent to Miss Bunting’s will and we could all see that Daisy and Mrs. Patmore were mortified, Miss B. continued to assert that she was right and that the servants were  dissatisfied and not respected. I’m delighted to hear that she’s leaving town. Tom could easily find a nice woman in the village who shares his political ideas — and is civil and respectful. My guess has been that even in Miss Bunting’s circle, she’s considered impertinent.

We didn’t learn much about whatever treatment Thomas is getting. I’m a bit annoyed. Again we’re getting strung along. If one or two stories are drawn out, that’s fine. But we’re being strung along with Edith’s story, the police investigation of Bates, the search for the Russian princess and Mary’s romantic storyline all move at a snail’s pace. I don’t mind a few stories moving slowly over a season, but I’d like some stories peaking mid-season or a third of the way in, while others develop more slowly.

Every week at the end I have this “Is that all?” question in my mind as I enjoy the banter, the costumes, but I can’t get around expecting something more to happen in a week.

Downton Abbey, Season 5 Premiere

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After months and months of hype and waiting, Downton Abbey’s fifth season began in the U.S. It’s a favorite show of mine, but I’ve never seen so much promotion. For crying out loud I saw three ads for Downton on CBS’ Sunday Morning — they’re in competition. CBS just had one promo for The Good Wife, which is on opposite Downton. Did PBS advertise on other networks as well?

It felt good to see the familiar faces of the Crawley clan and their servants. The costumes are always stunning. Julian Fallows offered his usual fare: verbal digs from the Dowager Countess, plots from Thomas, Cora going along with most everything, light moments with Mosely, Edith unsure and worried, and Mary capably preparing to take over the reins of Downton while mulling over her suitors.

Fallows packed a lot into the episode, which picked up where the last one left off although I was surprised that while the adults haven’t aged much, the children’s ages seem to have doubled. We learned that little Sybil calls her grandfather “Donk” as in donkey. How perfect! I love children’s names for grandparents and this one will keep Robert humble.

SPOILERS

While dedicated fans have already seen the new episode, let me note the following comments contain spoilers .

I’m glad that Miss Baxter told Cora that Thomas was using her and confessed that she’s been to jail for theft. Cora was discrete and fair with Baxter, who now can work without constantly worrying about Thomas.

  • There was no revelations about Bates. Perhaps he killed Anna’s rapist; perhaps he didn’t. It’s hard to say.
  • Edith seems to visit her daughter Marigold at the farmer’s house quite a lot. The farmer’s wife suspects that Edith’s got eyes for her husband, but I’d think these visits would be conspicuous to neighbors too. Alternative theories would come up and someone would get it right. Anyway, the husband’s sharp and he proposes the visits stop and agrees for a new story to explain them, because Edith can’t stop. Funny that she spends more time with her daughter than Mary does with her son, George.
  • Edith’s going to blow it. We all know that. The idea to bring Marigold to England was foolish and too tempting. I do have sympathy for Edith, but it irks me to see foolishness in any form. I’d love to see Edith get some gumption and hard as it is, send her daughter back to Switzerland. Then she should find a life’s passion and throw herself into it. Be a victor, not a victim, Edith!
  • Lord Gillingham visited Downton to woo Mary. Blake’s no where to be seen and Mary seems like the “out of sight, out of mind” type of woman. Any thought of Blake was fleeting. She’s agreed to go off with Lord G. to see if they’re compatible. I’m not sure that’s really historically accurate. Besides a week’s vacation isn’t a great way to learn about a person, especially when you’re traveling first class insulated from life’s trials and tribulations. The tryst is to be hush hush, but all secrets come out on TV. Seems to me there are other ways to gather the information Mary seeks. Also, is this going to be like the horrendous Bachelorette show? Will Mary give Blake a similar week?
  • Daisy’s starting to try to learn math. She’s struggling, but hats off to her for trying to take charge of her life. It’s funny how the high ranking staff had a pow wow about this. Carson and Mrs. Patmore worry that it’s too stressful for Daisy who already has a good job, in their opinion, while Mrs. Hughes supports Daisy’s desire to get more education.
  • As a surprise, Rose decides to invite the teacher Tom befriended to Cora and Robert’s 35th anniversary dinner. This Miss Bunting sets my teeth on edge. Throughout the evening she makes controversial statements such as questioning the need to remember the heroes of WWI (which we still do 100 years hence) and tries to cause trouble. She lacks the awareness to know that you can disagree, but you needn’t be rude and rabble rousing only rouses rabble. Tom’s just embarrassed and it took every ounce of patience and decorum for Robert not to toss this guest out on her tush. Miss Bunting was just boorish and self-serving. Her aim was to stir things up so she could then confirm her prejudices about the upper class. I really don’t like her and would love it if Fallows dropped her from the series, but I do doubt that. I fear Miss Bunting will go after Tom. What a pain!
  • Romance was on the horizon for Isobel Crawley, but Violet interfered as only she can. Violet does not want Isobel (Matthew’s mother) to marry a lord and gain status. So she hosted a big lunch inviting Dr. Clarkson, who’s sweet on Isobel and a beautiful widow who might divert Lord Whoever’s eye’s away from Isobel. It’s too soon to know whether that worked.
  • Robert’s nose got out of joint because the town committee wants Mr. Carson to lead the committee on the WWI memorial. Carson was as if not more upset by this unusual choice. My everything’s in flux!
  • Jimmy’s old employer showed up and they had a thing in the past, which gets rekindled. Almost literally.
  • The show ended with a house fire starting in Edith’s room. I’m not sure what happened. Did Edith try to burn that book with Gregson’s writing in it? Anyway Thomas was lurking in the halls trying to get dirt on Mary and to act as a lookout for Jimmy when he noticed smoke coming from Edith’s room. He swooped in and rescued Lady Edith, thus securing his job, which was on the line since his plot against Miss Baxter was discovered. I like justice so it would be fine with me if Thomas were fired. They can always bring in another devious footman and show Thomas in town, plotting against the family. I’m sure blackmail is in his skill set, as Lady Mary may learn.

I think Fallows could have made more of the fire. It was hard to believe the fire department could get their as fast as they seemed to and even with Robert and Tom’s quick response, I’m surprised there wasn’t more damage.

Downton Abbey, Episode 4

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If Thomas (a.k.a. Mr. Burton) cries during an episode of Downton Abbey, you know there’s tragedy. I happened upon news of Sybil’s death last fall when I did a search for some other Downton matter and a British site popped up.

Still as Bresson asserts in good drama knowing the outcome won’t diminish the engagement with a story. I know how Casablanca ends and yet I get caught up in the story time after time.

So I was actually all the more rapt as Sybil lost her life in childbirth. Any viewer could tell the city-fied, modern Sir Whatshisname, was wrong and that Lord Grantham should listen to Dr. Clarkson. It was odd, but believable, that this tradition-bound lord didn’t. I kept thinking, “Listen to the women. Listen to Cora on this, Robert!”

The tone of the emotion was just right. Characters were devastated, but there was some reserve. This is not a telenova. And that’s why we viewers feel all the more emotion. When I see say a Malaysian soap opera everyone’s screaming, crying and flailing about in hysteria. I feel nothing because that “works” been done by the actors. When you witness tragedy and there’s been restraint because the situations so sad that words and actions won’t suffice, that’s when the audience feels the most.

One of the most beautiful scenes in this season so far was when we saw Branson at the window holding his daughter. No words and it just lasted a minute, but we knew (or projected) everything his grieving husband must feel. He’s got to be strong and committed to his daughter in spite of his own grief.

We’re in store for a lot of drama. Branson’s role in the family is even more tenuous. He’s still connected by a female the Grantham’s love, but she’s a baby and can’t act as a mediator. Where will they live? What work will Branson, who can’t return to Ireland, take on that won’t humiliate the Grantham’s?

Bravo to Isobel for hiring Ethel. I can see why Mrs. Bird left, but it’s a shame she didn’t try to stay and work through her prejudices. I think Isobel’s great sacrifice isn’t going to be her reputation, but rather her palate. It’ll take Ethel a while to learn to cook.

Congratulations to Edith for the newspaper column. I hope she surprises everyone with her insights and writing. Edith, yes your father and granny disapprove, but don’t flee the breakfast table each time he does. Women need their rights, but they also need to learn to stand their ground.

Robert, it’s true you didn’t cause Sybil’s death, but to get back into Cora’s good graces, you ought to blame yourself as much as possible.(The trailers suggest you won’t.) If you descend into depression than Cora would probably consider rescuing you her mission. If you aren’t huber-contrite and grief-stricken you’ll be sleeping solo ad infinitum.

January 13th’s Downton Abbey

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Ahh, the house was abuzz as everyone quickly prepared for Edith’s wedding to the older Sir Anthony. What are my thoughts? Well, there will be spoilers below, so don’t say you weren’t warned. Here’s my 2 cents on an episode that kept me rivetted:

  • I’m wondering if Mrs. Hughes really is well or if she just hated all the fuss and told Mrs. Patmore she was.
  • Why didn’t Mrs. Levinson stay for Edith’s wedding? Was there some previous engagement? Isn’t she aware of Edith’s feelings of inferiority to Mary and therefore sensitive to the fairness of staying on? If she doesn’t like Downton, she could have gone to London or the Lake District to take in the sights and then returned to see Edith wed.
  • I did think Shirley MacLaine was poorly used last week. She sparred nicely with Violet, but that could have been better and she was one dimensional as the Yank who believes in change. She had few scenes with her daughter, which was weird. I wanted to know how Cora could be so different from her mother Martha. They seemed like acquaintances, not relatives, let alone mother and daughter. Very odd.
  • I’d glad the money issue will work out. I wasn’t ready to give up Downton and I’m like Mary in that I see the Countess of Grantham as living in Downton Abbey.
  • I hope someone divests Daisy of her fascination with fast women. It’s not her character and so she’s on thin ice. Trouble looms, my dear, when you stray from your true self.
  • There was a fair amount with the prison and Bates. It’s not looking good, but at least he was tipped off about the knife his cellmate planted.
  • What will O’Brien do to Thomas? He best be careful as she’s shrewd.
  • Edith will need to find something to do, something noble. Stop all this spinster talk. Mary was older when she married.
  • Sir Anthony, how could you?  it’s one thing for a hobbledehoy to jilt a bride at the altar with all her family and friends watching, with thousands spent for delicacies and libation, and quite another for a grown man. You’re no school boy and we all expect more character from a gentleman!