Though the Downton Abbey TV series had legions of fans during its six-season run, you don’t have to be one of them to enjoy Downton Abbey: A New Era, the second film to spin off from the show. Set in the waning days of the 1920s, A New Era finds the Crawley family distracted from its typical genteel-rich-people routine by two enticing prospects. First, a film director (Hugh Dancy), making a moving picture with actual stars (played, delightfully, by Dominic West and Laura Haddock), wants to use the Crawley estate as a location. Will peppery matriarch Violet (Maggie Smith) allow such an indignity? And then, almost simultaneously, Violet learns she has inherited a villa in the south of France from a long-ago lover, and her son Robert and his wife Cora (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) pack up half the family, along with a whole wardrobe of floaty silks and linens, to check it out.
There’s intrigue upstairs and down: Will Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) be loyal to her absentee husband or succumb to the attentions of a flirty swain? Will head butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier) remain true to his calling or embark on the adventure of a lifetime? Director Simon Curtis (Woman in Gold) and writer Julian Fellowes (the creator of the series) answer all those questions with a feathery flourish.
If you don’t know all the characters, it’s easy enough to figure out who’s who as the story motors along. And even if you give up on that altogether, there are always the clothes. Oh, the clothes! Kimono jackets in Sonia Delaunay–worthy combos of tangerine and turquoise, cloaks adorned with languid silk tassels, chiffon blouses dotted with discreetly sparkly beads—because when you’re a genteel rich person, you can sparkle whenever you want, provided you do it in good taste. Downton Abbey: A New Era goes down as easy as a Nice sunset.
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