I think hashtags are often overused, but I count growing up to be like the Dowager Countess as #LifeGoals.
For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, I’m referring to Maggie Smith’s iconic character on “Downton Abbey.” She’s the matriarch of the Crawley family, and she’s absolutely fantastic. Some lines that are worth sharing:
“I don’t dislike him. I just don’t like him, which is quite different.”
“No guest should be admitted without the date of their departure settled.”
“I know several couples who are perfectly happy. Haven’t spoken in years.”
Smith’s character is a hoot and a highlight of the show, which ran as part of PBS’ Masterpiece for six seasons. “Downton Abbey” came to a close in December 2015. While most stories came to a satisfying ending, fans still weren’t ready to say goodbye to the Crawley family. The film is the creative team’s way of giving us closure and one last visit to Downton.
The film picks up a couple of years after the series finale. Mary (Michelle Dockery) is still running things alongside her father, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and her brother-in-law, Tom (Allen Leech). She’s happily married to Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), and they have a little girl. Edith (Laura Carmichael) also is happily married to Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), with no children yet. In fact, most everyone is happily something in the film. Anna (Joanna Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) have even managed to find their own slice of happiness while working at Downton and raising their son.
Everything is thrown for a loop when the family receives a message the king and queen will be coming to visit. It becomes especially messy when the royal servants show up and make it clear they’ll be running the house while their majesties are around.
In a lot of ways, the film feels like an episode of the show, maybe a Christmas episode. The film is two hours, and there’s a lot packed in there. No, neither Mr. Bates or Mrs. Bates ends up in prison, thankfully. Apparently that melodrama is only intended for the small screen. But, there are still moments where the characters pick up exactly where they left off nearly four years ago. Edith is still extremely “woe is me,” while Mary feels quite put upon by how busy she is. Daisy (Sophie McShera) is quite wishy-washy in practically everything. She and Andy (Michael C. Fox) are engaged now, but she just can’t be bothered to set a wedding date. She’s too busy complaining about practically everything, including the monarchy. Again. And again.
Like I said, in many ways, the film is the perfect extension of the series, picking up exactly where it left off. Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is still a gay man in the wrong era, but he’s happily serving as butler of Downton Abbey. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) — I refuse to call her Mrs. Carson — is still leading the pack, alongside Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter). Even Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) returns, although he and Ms. Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) still haven’t found their own happiness.
In many ways, while the film pays tribute to the characters we love and tries to fit as many storylines as possible into the two-hour runtime, it does a bit of a disservice to them by cutting down on the time we’re able to spend with the Crawleys or the servants. We’re given a war between the Downton staff and the royal servants, a rivalry between Andy and a plumber, a pregnant Edith, Tom’s infatuation with a maid, Thomas in a gay bar, an unhappily married princess, the Dowager Countess feeling her family’s inheritance had been stolen by a cousin we’ve never met, Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), and more.
So yeah, there’s a lot packed in there.
Thankfully, we also get to enjoy wonderful exchanges between Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and the Dowager Countess. The two were a source of delight throughout the show’s run, and they don’t disappoint here either. In fact, they’re still my favorite relationship behind Mary and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens).
In fact, the film, while jam-packed, doesn’t disappoint. Yes, it’s busy and perhaps overfull, but it’s also two hours spent with characters we adore. We wanted to know how Edith’s story has progressed, even if she drives us batty. And it’s nice to see Anna and Mr. Bates playful rather than worrying about swinging at the end of a noose. In many ways, we get real closure to each of these character’s stories, and it’s gratifying. In fact, there are only a couple of choices the film makes that I had issues with. I can’t tell you what they were but know things take an unnecessary turn during the last 15 minutes of the movie.
As a feature-length movie, the film falters on a few levels, but, as the end of an era and a final goodbye, it hits all the right notes. It’s extravagant, rich and exactly what you’d expect on a trip to “Downton Abbey.”