I enjoyed every minute of this. If you’re looking for a couple of hours of old style, feelgood escapism, and you’re able to get to the pictures to see this, then I highly recommend that you do so. Yes, all right, it’s all a bit cliched and predictable, and no doubt some people will complain that it doesn’t even touch on the terrible hardship faced by so many people in the late 1920s; but it’s entertaining, and it feels like catching up with old friends.
And it’s got some of the more glamorous aspects of the 1920s down to a tee. ITV were guilty of a few anachronisms in the TV series, but the film, like the first film, gets it spot on. Especially the costumes. The tennis whites. I’m so glad that the AELTC still make players wear all white clothing, and I’m also glad that coloured cricket pyjamas have so far been kept out of Test matches! And the hats. Lots of wonderful hats!
There are two main storylines. One is that the Crawleys have been approached by a company wanting to use Downton Abbey as a film location. Lord Grantham and Carson are both horrified, but the money is needed for repairs to a leaking roof. And it all gets a bit Singin’ in the Rain as the film is turned from a silent movie into a talkie. The other is that the Dowager Countess has acquired a villa in the South of France, left to her by an old admirer, and intends to hand it over to little Sybbie. Cue a party from Downton heading off to the glamorous Riviera, with Edith, resuming her career as a journalist, writing an article about the appeal of the area to the likes of F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. All very 1920s.
Lady Mary stays at Downton to oversee the film making. The beautiful leading lady turns out to be rude and unpleasant, but it turns out that she’s worried about her Cockney accent ending her career now that talkies are coming in. She eventually learns to do an American accent, and heads off to find fame in Hollywood. However, they need someone with a posh voice to dub her lines in the film they’re making at Downton. Now, who could possibly step in to save the day? And the suave leading man, whom all the women fancy, turns out to be gay … and Barrow is in need of a new love interest after his previous boyfriend decided to marry a woman. Nul points for working out what happens, but it’s all good fun.
Meanwhile, in the South of France, Carson is refusing to dress for the climate or to learn a word of French, and is going around muttering about how the English do everything properly and the French haven’t got a clue, Lord Grantham fears that the marquis whose villa it was may have been his natural father, and Lady Grantham is worried about her health. Of course, everything turns out OK in the end.
Tom and Lucy get married at the start of the film. Daisy and Andy are already married. Edith and Bertie are happy with their new baby … and everyone seems to accept that Marigold is Edith’s illegitimate daughter, but not to be bothered about it. Anna and Mr Bates are also happy with little Johnny. Miss Baxter is after Mr Molesley, and Mrs Patmore is after Mr Mason: the course of true love never doth run smooth, but you know that both ladies are going to bag their chaps in the end. The only person who isn’t happy is Lady Mary, but that was because Matthew Goode wasn’t available for the film, so we’re told that Henry is off doing something with cars.
There’s a sad storyline towards the end, but it was made clear towards the end of the previous film that that was coming. And, after it, the film does end on a high note.
Don’t be expecting to be too intellectually challenged by this, but do expect to enjoy it, and to come out with a big smile on your face. It’s lovely.