I have seen zero episodes of “Downton Abbey” on television.
I did see, and like, the first movie. That I enjoyed the second one – “Downton Abbey: A New Era” – even more is a tribute to the fine screenwriting, which contains just enough exposition to remind me who these characters are and how they relate to one another.
In this one, Lord Grantham and other members of the family travel to the south of France to see a villa the Dowager Countess (the always-wonderful Maggie Smith) has inherited.
And who was this gentleman who bequeathed her this property … and did he have something to do with her first-born?
Of course, there are a lot of other things to fuss about, both upstairs and downstairs at the abbey. Hugh Dancy plays a movie director who wants to film his latest drama in the gorgeous mansion.
At first, the thought of such carryings-on results in eye-rolling and exasperated sighs … really, how inappropriate! But the practical Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) points out just how leaky the roof is, and just how much money they will make to help restore the beautiful house.
It’s so much fun to watch how the entire ensemble reacts when the halls are suddenly full of stars and a film crew. I loved how starstruck Daisy (Sophie McShera) is, and how actor Guy Dexter (played wonderfully by Dominic West) never takes himself too seriously.
The most enjoyable, and the most irritating, character is star Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock) who takes herself quite seriously. She treats the staff shabbily and proceeds to throw tantrums when things don’t go her way.
The sets are beautiful, the dialogue lively – of course, Smith’s lines are as sharp as she is sharp-tongued. There’s a clever scene toward the end that involves a gathering of characters that is an utter delight.
Bravo, screenwriter Julian Fellowes. The only way I can imagine anyone liking this film more is if they have seen every episode of the series.
3 ½ stars
Rated: PG for adult themes.
Running time: Two hours and four minutes.
Watch the trailer here.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine.