1927 England. A
fabulous estate in the countryside, and a family of wealth and means.
But it isn't just about the nobility and their fabulous foibles,
it's also about the people downstairs, in the servant's quarters, yes, the
skullery maids and the cooks and the butlers and the valets----all are
necessary for the totality of Downton Abbey.
You don't have to have watched the television series, but it helps,
because there are many characters, and a lot of moving parts.
And it's all very British.
Hugh Bonneville plays Lord Grantham, literally the lord of the
manor, and he does so with dignity and aplomb.
He's a credit to his rapidly-disappearing ilk.
His older daughter, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is slowly but
surely taking control of the business of running the place, even though
sometimes she doubts she really wants the duty.
His younger daughter, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), feeling the
stirrings of early feminism, finds she enjoys being independent, but she
also cares enough about the Abbey to enjoy a feisty rivalry with her
And there's nobody more feisty than Maggie Smith, playing Violet
Crawley, the family matriarch. They
give her some great caustic punch lines, and she really knows how to
deliver them. We want to see
more of her even though her character is not entirely a sympathetic one:
she obviously enjoys playing the crusty curmudgeon.
The whole place is an an uproar because the King and Queen are
coming to visit. Something
about a stop along their scheduled tour, complete with a parade and a
military review and lots of royal pageantry.
The subplot is really located downstairs, in the servants quarters,
where the regulars have not taken kindly to the idea of royal servants
being brought in to displace them during the visit.
They hatch a plot to, ah, make their unwanted replacements
temporarily indisposed, so that the Downton Abbey regulars may have the
honor of serving the King and Queen all to themselves.
And therein lies the underlying Anglophilia that fuels this whole
enterprise. And even though we
Americans had a Revolution overthrowing our allegiance to the English
crown, and all it represents, still, there's a part of us that loves all
the pomp and circumstance, complete with the dukes and the earls and the
princesses, the ladies-in-waiting and the polished silver, the crumpets on
silver trays and the gloved butlers in tuxedos.
Oh, they made sure there are a few outliers in the mix.
Lord Grantham is married to (gasp) an American, played by Elizabeth
McGovern. But besides the fact
that she doesn't have the right accent to be one of them, she accepts her
role with grace and charm. Tom
Branson (Allen Leech) plays the widower of the third daughter, and he
started there as a chauffer. And,
he's an Irishman. But he has
learned to put aside all his natural disinclinations toward all the
pomposity and grandiose affectations, because he's become convinced that
this landed-gentry family is actually good at heart.
And so is he, as he proves by helping to foil a dastardly plot to
harm the King, not because he's done anything wrong personally, but
because of the stultified monarchy he represents.
Well, those of us who love this stuff will just continue to enjoy
looking at overdressed people waltzing to full orchestras, each seeking
some semblance of love amidst the slow decline of a once-glorious but now
A spot of tea, anyone?