Movies

Movie review: 'Downton Abbey'

The king and queen are coming, toes will be stepped upon

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 9/27/19

Julian Fellowes has created quite a little industry cataloguing the manners and accoutrement of British aristocracy circa 1920s via his popular television show, “Downton Abbey.”

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Movies

Movie review: 'Downton Abbey'

The king and queen are coming, toes will be stepped upon

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Julian Fellowes has created quite a little industry cataloguing the manners and accoutrement of British aristocracy circa 1920s via his popular television show, “Downton Abbey.” But, obviously, it isn’t only a compendium of proper evening attire, dinner services, and maintaining an antiquated if highly romanticized standard of living, it’s about Fellowes’ chronicle of the people who keep the Abbey operating at full steam. 

Led by Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and Lady Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), the house stands upon a spacious estate where the family holds forth thanks to a devoted domestic staff of footmen, butlers, maids, cooks and others. Fellowes should be applauded for keeping a running storyline for each, aided of course by the history laid out in the TV series that followed all the various peccadillos, jealousies and comeuppances worthy of such a well-heeled soap opera.

Now, there’s a feature film that over two hours brings devoted fans up to speed on what’s happening with all their favorite characters as they prepare for a visit by King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) who are on tour through the realm. Set in 1927, the story is told in pithy snippets that are supposed to provide tiny bridges to anticipation for what may happen later in the plot. Most times it’s successful, but at others it leaves the audience waiting for numerous shoes to drop just as a tantalizing line of dialogue is uttered.

Fellowes, the writer, leaves directing chores to Michael Engler, veteran of the TV series, to keep these bits and pieces flowing around various subplots which involve everything from a possible assassin to romantic intrigue, along with a rebellious streak among the Downton staff as they react to the royals’ stuffy traveling staff.

The movie picks up about a year after the TV series ended but if you’re new to the storylines, enough of the aforementioned pithy snippets are scattered about that will provide details to kind of fill you in. Some that aren’t have to do with the status of some characters, such as why Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) is home fastidiously gardening while his wife, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) still works at the estate, and why he is pressed into service when the head butler, Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), doesn’t seem up for the task when the royals’ traveling staff begin throwing their weight around. Of course, you’ll know the answer if you watched the TV show.

Some newer developments could have needed a bit more exposition, such as why such a vicious rivalry exists between the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith in what is rumored to be her last film role) and Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), who is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary, the estranged cousin of Lord Grantham. A young woman who is identified as Maud’s personal maid, Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), is part of that intrigue as well.

Interestingly, Fellowes tosses in a few peaks to counter these valleys in the plot that turn on elements of danger or intrigue, but which are quickly resolved and conveniently kicked away like a dropped crumpet during high tea. As a result, Fellowes disappoints by providing merely an expanded TV script when a full-fledged motion picture would have been much more satisfying.

Tempo grade: B

“Downton Abbey” is rated PG for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language.

It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Abominable

MPAA rating: PG for some action and mild rude humor.

Storyteller 7 Theatres

In this animated feature from DreamWorks, a Yeti , who is eventually named “Everest,” lands on the apartment roof of a teenage girl named Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) in Shanghai, prompting her and her mischievous friends, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai), to embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family.

But to do so, they must stay one step ahead of a wealthy financier named Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and a determined zoologist named Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulsen) who want to capture the beast for their own gain.

It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Maiden

MPAA rating: PG for language, thematic elements, some suggestive content and brief smoking images.

Taos Community Auditorium

In 1989, the very idea of a competitive all-female sailboat crew was nearly inconceivable to the manly world of open-ocean yacht racing. They’d never make it to the start of the Whitbread Round the World Race, much less survive to the finish. They’d never find funding. They didn’t have the strength or skill. They’d die at sea. Did that many professional female sailors even exist?

Tracy Edwards proved them wrong. 26-year-old skipper Edwards, her second-hand racing yacht Maiden, and her seasoned crew not only became the first-ever all-woman challenge to the Whitbread, they proved able competitors in the famously grueling race, besting male crews in their class. By the time they returned to their starting point at Southampton, England after 32,000 miles of global racing, they had shocked, inspired, and transfixed the sailing world and the British nation. Tracy Edwards was awarded the 1990 Yachtsman of the Year Award, the first woman ever to receive the accolade, and was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Maiden’s story does not begin in such glory. Unlike most of her Maiden crewmates, Edwards did not grow up in a sailing family. After her beloved father died when she was 10, conflict at home with an antagonistic, alcoholic stepfather drove Tracy to anger and rebellion. Sailing represented freedom — and she then set her sights on experiencing the world’s biggest sailing event, the Whitbread Round the World Race that circumnavigated the globe every three years (known since 2001 as the Volvo Ocean Race).

The story of Maiden’s upstart, defiant run at the Whitbread Round the World Race has all the elements of an epic adventure tale — 50-foot waves, life and death drama, near-mutiny, thrilling victory — grounded in a perceptive group portrait of a team of courageous young women led by the remarkable, complicated Tracy Edwards. They pioneered the sport of long-distance racing for the women who followed and inspired women in all fields to prove themselves the equal of men.

This documentary film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 29), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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