rom the moment the news broke that Julian Fellowes, author of the immensely popular television series “Downton Abbey,” was writing a follow-up story for a film version, aficionados began pulling hats and pearls from their closets. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many calls wanting to know if the film would play here. And I would never have guessed it would, given Cinemark’s predilection for animated kid films, comix sequels and superheroes. But there it was.
Fellowes thoughtfully brought nearly all the final cast in, including the “upstairs” Crawleys (Hugh Bonneville as Robert, the 7th Earl of Grantham, and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham), their two daughters, Lady Mary and Lady Edith, and their spouses. And of course, Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, still perfectly capable of delivering the zingers for which she is so loved. Fellowes couldn’t write a successful script without including the “downstairs” cast of servants, who actually provided most of the excitement both in this as well as the series.
The story is simple enough. It’s 1927, and the Crawleys are informed that the King and Queen are touring various estates, and will be visiting their home in Yorkshire, Downton Abbey, within a week. There will be a parade for the village, a dinner and a ball. Everyone is excited and happy for the honour. One would think the preparations would cause palpitations for the staff, especially the cook, Mrs. Patmore. But their anxieties extend only to doing everything perfect. They are honoured by the opportunity.
That opportunity is short-lived, however, as members of the Royal Household arrive early and inform the staff that they will manage the preparations and the meals, the Downton staff will not be needed. However, the best part of the screenplay is the machinations that nix those instructions.
Fellowes includes a bit of politics, in a character with Irish sympathies, giving Tom (the chauffeur who eloped with the Crawley’s youngest daughter, who died in childbirth in the third season) a chance to shine.
Fellowes also provides Tom a romantic interest, an unmentioned cousin to the Crawleys who looks to play a role in what hints Fellowes drops that perhaps there could be a sequel or two. Even the gay footman, Thomas Barrow, who has finally made butler following Carson’s retirement, is allowed to show his true colors in a night of fun with the King’s Royal Dresser, Ellis.
So, go on and get your hopes up. “Downton Abbey” is a cash cow that just keeps on giving, delighting the tens of thousands whose TVs were permanently set on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater every Sunday night for six seasons. It’s also one of the most popular of public television’s fund-raising shows, during their “giving season.”
So, see you at the movies.
Toni Clem is a Paris resident and has been writing Deja View for more than 30 years.