The first Downton Abbey movie served as an epilogue for the series, providing extra resolution to several characters and coupling up others to provide a happy ending. Then it was wildly successful to the tune of $200 million worldwide, and thus demanding a follow up film.
Creator/writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) produces yet another epilogue, this time finding even more happy endings and couplings for the those left out from the first cinematic victory lap. Fellowes is still amusing with his understated wit and class conscious dramatics.
Maggie Smith returns as the tart-tongued Dowager Countess along with the rest of the beloved cast. This second film splits the cast in two locations — one half inspects a picturesque villa in the south of France left to the Dowager, to the buttoned-up surprise of her son who questions what relationship his mother had with the former owner.
The other half of the cast is stationed at the Downton estate while a Hollywood film crew decamps to make a movie. The inclusion of the movie-within-a-movie allows for some dishy moments, starstruck characters, and opportunities for a few Downton residents to make their mark in the pictures.
These scenes are fun and provide some interesting conflict as the production has to quickly adapt from being a silent movie to one of the newfound all-the-rage talkies (with a lead actress better suited without sound).
It’s a fluffy side story but allows many characters to shine. While the movie is mostly low-key and charming, much like its first big screen effort, by the end there might be some real tears, especially if you’ve been with these characters from the start.
Letter Grade: B-