Downton Abbey: the Movie!

DATELINE: Moving On Up!

The classic TV series returns with a feature film, and the King and Queen of England are coming to dinner. You too, even a commoner, are invited to be a fly on the wall, which is even lower than the downstairs staff.

If you feel like this was already done, you likely saw Upstairs/Downstairsin some rerun incarnation in which the King came to dinner—and sent the TV show into a tizzy. The Fellowes motion picture of Downton Abbeyis lusher and grander.

The original Downton cast is back and kicking up their idiosyncrasies in the upper and lower chambers.

The man cursed by King Tut, Lord Carnarvan, left his beautiful castle home to serve as a stand-in for noble living, which is still the real star playing the scandal-ridden abbey.

Hugh Bonneville is back—and so are his two rival daughters (Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery), but you will be swept back into the luxury by the marvelous suite music that is the theme. The music transports you to another era.

Julian Fellowes, creator, was never totally original, but he manages the materials from dozens of sources to produce an optimistic and pleasant diversion from anything resembling modern life.

All the characters pick right up on the spot: Maggie Smith’s acerbic dowager countess is known even to the Queen for her biting wit. There are polite family feuds brewing beneath the surface of the upper-crust, and sexual peccadilloes are sweating in the downstairs with Barrow (Robert James-Collier)  and his gay feelings for a footman. We see the inside of a 1927 gay bar,

If the entire mess is to be derailed by such shenanigans, it takes Carson the butler(Jim Carter) to come out of retirement to save the day.  The conflicts, as always at Downton, are small and personal. And, we learn in a class society how unimportant we truly are at Downton Abbey.

As expected in British repertory company, the cast is brilliant (even down to American Elizabeth McGovern), but the treat here is the sumptuous production—even grander and more movie-like than the small screen version.