Film Review: Elegant Escape to ‘Downton Abbey’ offers film therapy at its finest

Harry Hadden-Paton (from left), Laura Carmichael, Tuppence Middleton and Allen Leech in Downton Abbey: A New Era. Recognition: Ben Blackall/Focus Features

Downton Abbey: A New Era is the second full-length sequel to the popular 2010-2015 PBS series. Written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Simon Curtis, this Focus Features film was originally scheduled to open in December 2021 but was pushed back to March 2021 and then again to May due to pandemic concerns. The producers wanted to be sure that moviegoers would feel safe enough to go.

Based on cash reports, Downtons Its opening weekend grossed $18 million, mostly from older moviegoers. Seems like the producers played the market perfectly.

As the film begins, we learn that the Dowager Countess, Lady Granthan, played to perfection by the esteemed Dame Maggie Smith, has mysteriously inherited a villa on the Cote d’Azur from a suitor she briefly dated as a young woman. She feigns confusion and offers no explanation, so most of the family sets off to visit the mansion and investigate without her. What they find only adds to the intrigue.

The backdrop for the villa segments is Villa Rocabella in Le Pradet, France, near Toulon on the Cote d’Azur. Famous for its Belle Epoque decor, the villa was built in 1889 on a large plot of land with direct access to an enchanting Mediterranean bay. Though the plot that gets us there may linger a bit too long, the set is elegant beyond imagination, making up for the occasional clumsiness of this subplot’s resolution.

Elizabeth McGovern (left) and Laura Carmichael in Downton Abbey: A New Era. Recognition: Ben Blackall/Focus Features

Elizabeth McGovern, a native of Evanston, was in the role of Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham from the start. Steadfast and reserved, she is a favorite among Downton fans. McGovern was born in 1961 to Katherine Wolcott, a high school teacher, and William McGovern Jr., a former Northwestern University professor. When she was 10 years old, the family moved to California. She is also a songwriter/musician and has her own pop band Sadie and the Hotheads. you and Downton Director Curtis married in 1992. They have two children and live in Chiswick, London.

The costume designers Anna Robbins and Maja Meschede achieve great things in their work. (Robbins was recognized for her artistry in First Costume Designer of the Year at the 2019 Hollywood Film Awards Downton Movie sequel.) From the first scene in this film, a wedding, to the last scene, there are more than 300 costumes in all, each immaculate down to the last detail.

Sophie McShera, who plays Daisy Parker, a downstairs collaborator, revealed in a recent interview with Mental Floss that producers have implemented a “no wash” policy on all costumes to keep everything looking (and feeling) the way they are. Early 20th century: “We stink because they don’t wash our costumes. They have these weird patches sewn into their armpits that they wash separately.” The price of glory!

Penelope Wilton (left) and Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey: A New Era. Recognition: Ben Blackall/Focus Features

That Downton Sequel is set in the 1920s when silent films were rapidly being replaced by talkies. Before their trip to the Côte d’Azur, the family is persuaded by a Hollywood producer to let him shoot a silent film in Downton. This turns out to be more complicated than expected.

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