Welcome to Downton – A Movie Theatre Review

Downtown Abbey

At the risk of sounding like an old fogy, it’s been years since I visited a  movie theatre – 22 to be exact – the last movie I saw at “the show” as we used to call it, was Titanic.   Yes, the year was 1997 and those actors are now middle-aged.   There hasn’t been a movie since where I felt I could not wait the minimal few months for it to come out on DVD, or it isn’t even called that anymore – become “available for home theatre viewing.”

So it was with much anticipation that I awaited the opening of the new  Downtown Abbey movie.   For stalwart fans of the Masterpiece TV series it was like coming home again, for it’s been three long years since we last had a glimpse of the Crawley family and their downstairs servants.   (See my Febrary post – Downton Abbey Revisited for more on their famous world.   Ah, the food, the fun, the fashions….)

Downton Abbey

The old Cineplex theatre where Titanic last sailed, has been torn down and a new multiplex Cineplex built, as that was the most requested addition according to a recent mall survey.    As the average box-office movie-goer is now a teenage boy who is into Marvel/Star wars movies, that’s probably who they surveyed.   No one I know goes to the movies anymore, so we have only ourselves to blame for the dearth of watchable movies.      

We decided to attend the noon matinee on the opening weekend, thinking the crowds would be fewer, and they were as when we walked in there were maybe fifty people at most.   The set-up reminded me of an IMAX theatre, an enormous screen with the seats facing downwards, but at least no one could obstruct your view.   I remember the last time I was in an IMAX theatre, decades ago for a Grand Canyon documentary, definitely not a good idea for someone who doesn’t like heights.   Speaking of heights, I wondered why almost everyone was sitting near the top.    We soon found out, as wow – that surround sound is certainly loud.   Even my mother, who denies being a bit deaf, thought it was way too loud.   As she was unable to climb higher than five rows up we stopped there, and had a lovely conversation with the lady in the seat behind us, who had recently had knee surgery and also found the stairs a chore.    Although there was a space below to store her walker, these places are really not designed for the handicapped…..steep uneven stairs, a long reach to the side handrail, and an elevation requiring a sherpa to achieve.    I watched the people coming down afterwards, mostly an older crowd, and everyone was navigating slowly as if coming down off Mount Everest. 

The seats were fake leather, non-tilting and horribly uncomfortable – gaming chairs really.   They must have surveyed their 15 year old target audience. 

The lights dimmed – therein followed thirty minutes of previews – lots of dark intergalactic forces at work on the planet these days, plus one unappealing Christmas rom-com staring nobody I knew.   I didn’t know they still made rom-coms, but Meg Ryan would not be caught dead in a silly green velvet elf suit.   The only one I was remotely interested in was Judy, and I can easily wait the three months to see Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland, which I’m sure will be an Oscar-worthy performance.   Most younger people would not even know who Judy Garland was, nor maybe Renee Zellweger either. 

At least ticket prices are still reasonable…..$9 for a senior and $11 regular.  Big boxes of popcorn were $9 but small ones were $7 so you might as well spring for the larger size.    And what a variety of hot foods available, my lord – poutine at the movie theatre?   I happen to think poutine is a code word for future heart attack, but hey the target audience is invincible. 

Oh yea….I was supposed to be reviewing the movie. 

The Movie:   (no spoilers here)

There’s a big difference between writing a weekly series with an ongoing storyline and having to construct one from scratch in such a way that people tuning in for the first time are not hopelessly lost.   There were lots of intro scenes establishing the background and introducing the characters.   This probably accounted for the slow first half – I glanced over and my mother had fallen asleep, (1:30 pm is her usual nap time), but when I nudged her awake, she said she was just resting her eyes.   My eyes were sore too, as I found the screen way too close even from five rows in the midsection and wished we were higher up the mountain.   Where is a sherpa when you need one….

The characters seemed somewhat subdued.   It took them awhile to don their familiar roles, which is to be expected I suppose as when you are playing someone weekly it’s easy to slip into character again.  They were rusty – not Mary or Violet though.   Although everyone had a story, some were larger – Mary, Tom, Thomas and Daisy.   Daisy really seemed to be coming into her own.   Maybe they should give her a spin-off series?    Some characters barely had a part – Cora, Robert and Mr. Bates, and Henry just showed up at the end leaping of a car in time for a ball, although for a tall skinny guy he does leap well.   The plot line seemed thin and weak to me – but then I’m not really a monarchist.   It’s hard to get too excited about a visit from the King and Queen when they couldn’t even be bothered to make an appearance the past six years – much ado about nothing – but I suppose for the time period, serving king and country and all that.  Perhaps I am unfairly comparing it to the fast-paced series where scenes seldom lasted more than a minute or two and you were constantly left in suspense, wondering how things were going to turn out.  This ending was preordained.           

The sets and costumes were lavish as usual, as Julian Fellowes is one for details, but perhaps a wee bit less extravagant than usual.   As I had read it cost 1 million pounds/dollars to film each episode of DA, I wondered if  having already dismantled all the sets (except for Highclere), they had to make do.  Big box movies have a budget too.   If the substitute rooms didn’t seem as familiar or as opulent then maybe I have just watched too many episodes and know that the place settings would never be that close together for a formal dinner with the King and Queen, where Mosley makes a speech…..oops small spoiler.   The table did seem rather crowded. 

Will we get a sequel?   We could – there were a few unwrapped hints, Edith’s comment about missing her job, Tom’s new romance, but I suppose it depends on how much money is made.  

Most newspaper reviews have rated the movie a three star, but of course to DA fans it’s a five star.    I would tend to agree with both of them.  While I enjoyed it – it was good, not great.    Actually, I think I enjoyed any of the two hour spectacular Christmas specials more, except of course the one where Mathew died, a tragic ending so unexpected it made some people tune out permanently.    So don’t feel bad if you don’t have access to a mountain near you, you can easily wait until it comes out for home viewing…..and you can save on the popcorn too.

Overall, while it was slow to start, it picked up speed and finished with a grand, if somewhat sad, flourish – leaving us wanting more.  But there’s a small part of me that wishes he had just left them frozen in time at Christmas/New Years 1926 where everything was wrapped up neatly with a big bow.   

Postscript:  My apologies for not commenting on anyone’s blogs this past month.   Real life has interceded with the Cold-From-Hell (me), plus my mother was hospitalized for a week, she’s home now and on the mend, but I have not had internet access so I have not been able to read here at all.   

 Downton Abbey

 

 

29 thoughts on “Welcome to Downton – A Movie Theatre Review

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I don’t like going to movie theaters, so I understand your reluctance to do so. Your review of the movie is about what I’d expect the movie to be. The TV series was interesting, but to make a movie of them, while not a bad thing, it’s a thing I’m not sure I need to see. Or at least see on the big screen, all flashy and noisy. Maybe when it comes to TV. 😉

    I’m glad your mother is doing better and that you’re feeling better, too. I was wondering what had become of you…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Ally, for thinking of me. We are both on the mend. I only posted the DA blog as I had prepared it shortly after I saw the movie in Sept. I’m not really in the mood for writing at the moment, or at least not ready to try to make my weekly commitment. But I do plan on getting caught up with yours and some of my other favorite bloggers when able. Yes, you can easily wait until it comes out on TV. I loved the series, but I think any TV series episode had it beat.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jo Shafer says:

    Loved your review along with a few chuckles, but I so sorry your Mother was in hospital. And now the cold/flu bug head you over your head. Oh, dear. I wondered why we had not heard from you in a while. Happily, on the mend, now?

    I LOVED Downton Abbey, the Movie, yet I’m disinclined to see it again in the theatre. Yes, it’s still showing four weeks on! But I do want to order a DVD when it’s available and view it in my own cozy library. Like you, I don’t like sitting too close because the scenes are too “close in my face” and make me draw back, instinctively, especially with violent previews raging. I can climb rather easily. Going back down — like a cat descending a tall pine tree — is another matter.

    Speaking of those previews prior to Downton’s showing, weren’t they just awful? I wondered whether we’d stumbled into the wrong theatre. Previews should approximate similar themes to the feature, as far as I’m concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Jo! We are both on the mend, but it will be awhile until I can get caught up on Reader with my favorite bloggers, as I am still staying with her. I just slip out for an hour or so each day to check my email. It’s reminded me of life before the internet. I thought the previews were awful too and they reminded me of why I never go to the show. Plus the loud Surround sound nearly did me in during some of the ones with gun scenes. It’s not good to sit too close.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. J P says:

    My Mrs saw it with her brother. I have heard no raves nor gripes so I suspect she came to the same conclusions you did.

    I have enjoyed the show – I am a sucker for a well-written story. But I fear that the franchise’s best days are behind it.

    I am amazed that some theatres near me feature big vinyl recliners. And with all of the food options I still stick to popcorn for the one movie we get out to every year or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I prepared that blog shortly after I saw it in Sept, and have not read any reviews on how well it did at the box office since then, but I suspect most people thought it was mediocre. In retrospect any of the TV series shows were better. I have not read on here in a month, as I am staying with my mother while she recuperates and she does not have internet, but I plan on catching up on yours and some of my favourite bloggers when I’m able!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. lindasschaub says:

    I never saw the series on TV because I don’t have cable and I’m even worse than you for years away from going to “the show” – it is 1992 for me. You gave a thorough review of the movie Joni, and not just the movie but the whole ambiance that surrounds “the show” (which is what I’ve always called it as well). I had no idea those were the going rates for going to the show and for popcorn – I am an old fogy as I am living in the past as to prices and scenarios. I have heard some advance reviews for “Judy” and it sounds good and as I was reading this post, I remembered reading a story in “People” magazine the other day at the beauty shop when I got my highlights. I thought of you at that time as I know you liked Audrey Hepburn – this was the story when you get a chance to read it – I know you’re still scrambling to get things back to normal from your past month. P.S. – Poutine at the show? Wow – I’ve not tried it yet and the show would be the last place I’d expect to find it.
    https://people.com/movies/audrey-hepburns-sweet-love-affair-with-the-photographer-who-captured-her-american-debut/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ruthsoaper says:

    I haven’t gone to a movie theatre since my kids were old enough to go on their own (at least 10 years). I would usually fall asleep during the show. I wasn’t a big follower of this show but I enjoyed reading your review. I’m glad to hear you mom is on the mend. Hope you are feeling better soon as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Marilee…..glad to know I am not alone in my movie theatre aversion. I remember seeing Titanic SuperBowl Sunday and it was still crowded, so that was a testament to a good movie.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. annieasksyou says:

    First, so glad you’re back—and your mother is doing better. Hope your cough is gone by now.

    We saw Downton Abbey in our local theater for $5 each (before six pm). No other movie in our area is that inexpensive. I do enjoy going to the movies, but we go rarely because most films are not geared to “our demographic.”

    It was fun to revisit with members of the old Downton gang, but I found the subplot (avoiding spoiler alert) annoyingly phony, so that detracted from my overall view. Maggie Smith remains a treasure, and a high point was her repartee with her rival/friend (whose name I obviously don’t remember). If there’s a sequel without her, the gap will be huge.

    We saw “Judy,” and I believe Renee Zellweger’s performance will net her an Oscar. A friend thought she overacted, but I felt she inhabited her character in uncanny ways.

    Next up, “Little Women” is coming soon with a great cast, including the incomparable Meryl Streep. That’ll be one my husband will not care to share with me.

    Thanks for your review of Downton Abbey—and more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Annie. I’m just slipping home for an hour to check my mail. I didn’t know they were doing a remake of Little Women – esp with Meryl Streep. I’ll definitely put that on my list!

      Like

  7. Dave says:

    My wife and I thought the DA movie was better than expected. We certainly didn’t think a two-hour composite on the silver screen would show up an incomparable television series. The plot was creative, but perhaps deliberately designed to include every character in a role (big or small). The subplot with Thomas was our only real criticism – it reeked of political correctness. As the credits rolled, we concluded it was simply fun to see “the old gang” again, especially when we thought DA was gone forever. I believe the movie is doing better than expected at the box office, which would suggest there may be another one. That would be a mistake. I’ll excuse a single revisit on the big screen, but otherwise DA needs to stand alone for the great series it was.

    Liked by 1 person

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