TITLE: Downton Abbey
RELEASE FATE: September 20, 2019
MPAA RATING: PG (for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language)

As I have noted in previous reviews, it’s good for audiences to frequently experience a cinematic palette cleanser. Downton Abbey is just the latest example of such a film.

Based on the popular television series that ran for six seasons, the big screen version is essentially a small screen offering on a larger scale. In other words, this film may have been best seen as a PBS special rather than shown at a multiplex.

For those wondering whether one must be familiar with the story line and characters from the series to enjoy the film, the answer is, well, yes and no. It certainly does help to have followed the dramatic dealings of the Crawley family and their loyal staff. But for those not being so familiar, the movie has sort of a preface during which two cast members bring us up to speed as to the backstory, which I perceived to be Downton for Dummies (myself among them).

The film centers on a royal visit from the King and Queen of England who will be spending a night at Downton. This plot line, thin as it is, catalyzes several subplots that can only be described as somewhat interesting, but certainly not compelling.

Director Michael Engler, working from a screenplay by series creator Julian Fellowes, brings us a slow-paced period piece. Although the setting is beautiful, I began to wonder just how many different angles of Downton Abbey we might be subjected to.

While the entire cast has returned for the film, it is clear this will be Maggie Smith’s swansong in the role of matriarch Violet Crawley. Smith’s scenes, and the magnificent yet understated music score by composer John Lunn, are among the highlights of the film.

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