Downton Abbey is a very enjoyable, comfortable ride in movieland. Although the scenery, costumes, sets and acting are all superb, of the highest quality, this film is not a classic period drama. I would classify it as a period comedy. The single dramatic scene is very predictable. The hilarious, comedic quips that are littered throughout the script are not. In the 122 minutes that the film was running, there were at least twenty moments where the whole audience were laughing out loud. Dame Maggie Smith, in her role as the Dowager Countess in particular, is fed some great lines. But the laughs are liberally spread around the other characters.
There is brilliant pathos, portrayed by Kevin Doyle as Mister Molesley, who is continually close to fainting at the very thought of serving their Majesties, King George V and Queen Mary.
I loved the stiffness, which was bound to meet its comeuppance, of David Haig as Mister Wilson, who informs the staff of Downton that he is “the Royal Page of the Backstairs.”
All of the staff and the characters are wonderful, as is the acting.
The plot and sub-plots are all very predictable, but that doesn’t spoil the enjoyment. My experience was two hours of top quality entertainment.
There was a marvellous taste of things to come came early on in the film, when the family are informed by the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) that the King and Queen were coming to stay. The following exchange between Lady Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton) ensues.
Isobel: “Will you have enough clichés to get you through the visit?”
Violet: “If not, I’ll come to you.”
I highly recommend this film as two hours of comfortable, comedic entertainment with plenty of style and panache.
My rating: Four stars [out of five]
As an aside, I have run in the Highclere 10k race a few times. The route is around Highclere Castle estate, where much of the outdoor filming was done. I remember running along the driveway that is much-featured in the film.