Like Slipping into a Warm Bath

Warm Bath PixabayWhen is watching a movie like slipping into a warm bath? When you see familiar characters brought to life once more.

Yes, I admit it… I have at least one guilty pleasure. I had resisted for years, but one day, I found myself watching Downton Abbey just to see what all the fuss was about. And wouldn’t you know it, but I was drawn into a full-on binge-watch of all the available episodes on Netflix! This was a while ago, and the final season, I actually watched live.

So, yes, I was looking forward to the movie and went to see it on Thursday September 19. How is it that when there is a Friday release date, it is actually released Thursday? Don’t get it… but anyway…  There were only maybe a dozen people in the theatre, which is strange considering the box office results reported by Vanity Fair. I kind of like it that way, though. Almost like a private showing, and room for my snacks and drink in the cup holders on each side.

Downton Abbey We've Been Expecting YouI arrived in good time, hoping to see some movie previews since I haven’t been to a movie in a while. I suppose they figure, though, that Downton Abbey viewers must be accustomed to TV-style commercials (not sure why since it was broadcast on PBS here) because there were maybe ten of them. And the only preview was for a TV show, Prodigal Son, about serial killers, which is really not for the same audience at all. Oh well.

The Downton Abbey movie is set two years after the end of the series, giving us a chance to catch up on what the characters have been doing since then. The only important ones missing, from my point of view, are Rose Aldridge (Lily James) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), both for logical reasons if you watched the series. The movie starts off slowly, but soon has the target audience wrapped up in the upstairs and downstairs characters once again — this is not really a movie that would make much sense if you didn’t know and love the characters.

The plot is pretty thin, being all about the royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary, but there are some nice subplots. The Downton Abbey staff have some fun getting the better of the royal staff, with my favourite character, Thomas Barrow (below), still up for some devious tricks. And Thomas (Rob James-Collier) has a really nice story line of his own, which allows him to flex his acting muscles, much more than any other actor in the movie. There’s also some intrigue as well as potential happiness for Tom Branson (Allen Leach), which is well overdue.

The best dialogue of course is delivered by Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, particularly when she is paired with Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley, who gives as good as she gets. (The guy beside me in the cinema was laughing his head off every time Maggie Smith spoke her lines and gave a knowing look — she is very funny in an understated way.) A new character, Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), also has some fine moments with the Dowager. Staunton is the real-life wife of Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), but what I loved is the pairing of Professor McGonagall with Dolores Umbridge of the Ministry of Magic, both from the Harry Potter movies!

I have to admit that I was also quite tickled to see Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt together on screen again, not only for their story, but for the fact that each has played opposite Richard Armitage (notice how I managed to work him in here), Coyle in North and South and Froggatt in Robin Hood.

So, is this movie an Oscar winner? Not by any means. But it is a nice bit of fluff with some familiar characters and a very enjoyable way to spend an evening.

Pictures: Bathtub from Pixabay; Armitage from RichardArmitageNet.com; Others from IMDb.

67 thoughts on “Like Slipping into a Warm Bath

  1. Oooh, thanks for the reminder, Sue. I wanted to watch the DA movie, too – but I have just realised that I never watched the final season of the series. Hm, and now I feel that I have to catch up before I see the film…
    You know what, a little bit of fluff is actually really nice. There is so much bad stuff going on in the world – and also in my own little online world – that it is a lovely opportunity to just enjoy the simple positivity with a happy ending for all (I presume).

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    • I’m going to blow against the wind. All I’d seen of the series was the first season, back when it came out, on PBS, and I had no problem following the film at all. There were a few characters I didn’t recognize, but the plot lines (there are way too many) were all so conventional and unsurprising that I didn’t have any difficulty understanding them or enjoying the film at all.

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      • Oh well that’s good to know! Someone at work was asking if it’s a movie you can see without watching the series, so I’ll revise my answer. It’s not too taxing on the brain, that’s for sure. I did find Thomas’ story less conventional, although maybe not surprising.

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  2. I saw it two weeks ago with my sister and we even trekked out of town to catch an original English language version, because it would be blasphemy to miss the wonderfull Englishness (or Irishness ☘️ in Allen‘s case) which adds so much to the atmosphere. It was delightful and just the perfect two hours of escapism from 2019 with all its challenges. Thomas‘ storyline was great all around and the visuals were stunning as usual. I really want a 20s style dress now (not that I’d have occasion to wear it).

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  3. I have never watch this series, except small glimpses. But Maggie Smith forever is one of my must to seen actor. As Dominique Moisy said in his book “La géopolitique des séries”: it’s all about how the world of gentry changed.

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  4. I could never quite get into Downton Abbey even though I tried. My mom loved it, though and saw this last week, She had the same opinion: not a movie for the history books but fun for the fans. 🙂

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  5. I enjoyed it. I kept seeing these commentaries that said “dangerous nostalgia in the age of Brexit,” but it wasn’t coherent enough for that. It was like nostalgia with ADHD. Too many plot lines, no time to take any of it seriously, lots of zinger lines, plenty of scenery, but ultimately fluffy. I enjoyed it and forgot it the second I left the theater.

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      • Based on the first season, I think what commentators have been saying all along about “soft nationalism” in the TV series is not totally wrong. The show definitely has an “everyone stay in his place and it will all be fine” vibe — and the implied resolution of the inheritance plot line with Tom seems to underline that in some way, i.e., the property is staying in the hands of those who deserve it, even if they can’t be fully acknowledged. I also think the people who’ve been saying that there’s been a noticeable increase in “splendid isolation” plotlines around England in UK culture in the last few years have a point. It’s just that this film is so scatterbrained it’s hard to concentrate long enough on any one thought to say that the film has a POV.

        https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/downton-abbey-movie-plot-royal-family-queen-brexit-boris-johnson-julian-fellowes-a9101826.html

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        • Well, I suppose. I guess I see it as such light entertainment that I’m not reading too much into it. And of course Tom was the chauffeur, so moving from downstairs to upstairs happened once in the series. But was certainly frowned upon to begin with. As for the film, I really doubt that there was an intention to do anything other than follow the characters two years later. It would be hard to have a plot that wasn’t just keeping everyone in their places.

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          • Oh, I’m definitely sure that the intent was fan service — and making a little more money off this in the US market, where the original series ran on a non-profit channel and thus probably didn’t generate the revenue that it could have. It’s just that the we still have to ask why people love the show so much (esp in the US). Intention isn’t ever the whole story when it comes to appeal. It can be the case that a tv show has a political message without the creators intending it to have one, and that this message contributes to its appeal. It doesn’t help Downton Abbey at all imo that Fellowes is a Tory peer and Highclere Castle is regularly used as the backdrop for “very English” productions.

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  6. Oh, on the previews issue: I feel like there’s been a marked turn (at least in my market) in the last few years toward not showing any B movie dramas anymore. If it doesn’t have Oscar buzz they don’t want to show it. All the B movie-level drama has moved to TV and the streaming services, so now they show ads for TV in the cinema. (Alternately, in my cinema chain they show a lot of trailers for films that ultimately never make it here, which is exasperating.)

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    • It’s funny, though. You’d think they’d want to show previews that would get you to come back into the cinema…, rather than something that would get you to sit home in front of the TV or something that won’t come to that theatre. Also, the chain that I go to used to have deals for members where you pay extra with your popcorn and get a discounted movie ticket for next time. Now they’ve switched it to paying extra and getting a digital home movie rental.

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      • You’d think — but I suspect that a lot of these media enterprises are integrating in ways we don’t see, so that the theater owner (chain) is also somehow implicated in other distribution of the film. The other thing is that it’s kind of turning into an “event” thing at the normal prices. Something I’ve noticed with our chain is that a normal evening ticket is $12 but on cheap night it’s $5. The venues are packed on cheap nights and it feels like the film is a loss leader for the popcorn. Which to me says most people don’t want to pay $12 for an ordinary film, although they will for an “event” — big superhero / blockbuster premiere. I’ve read a few articles lately about the possibility of going to variable pricing for different films, which they informally do already anyway.

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        • Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, that there must be a financial arrangement behind the scenes. But as for attendance, I’m always amazed how empty the theatre is. (I don’t think I’ve been on a cheap night for a while.) maybe that says something about my choice of film, too, as I know the superhero films are packed. Our event pricing, for theatre broadcasts etc are $5 more, and there are even less people! But of course, the popcorn is very expensive! I’m sure that is where they make most of their money.

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          • I’m astounded at how empty they are, too. We’re now in the fall “passport” season where cinemagoers can pay $20 for admission to four movies of their choice if they go on Sunday and forego a reserved seat. This is b/c the movies have a hard time competing with American football around here. And still, last night I went to see “Judy” and was the only one there.

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            • I went to “It Chapter 2” last night and again maybe a dozen people. It’s a big multiplex, though, and the parking lot was full. “It 2” has already been out for a month. How was “Judy”?

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              • The most screens here this weekend were given to “The Joker,” followed by “Abominable.” Neither of which I really want to see, although I may see “The Joker” because it’s something a lot of my students will see.

                Judy: I had mixed feelings, although i felt the performances were uniformly strong. (I didn’t know that much about JG’s life before seeing it, so that was interesting and then I came home and read about it and that was even more interesting, although upsetting. She died at 47!). On the one hand, Renee Zellweger was really convincing but on the other hand I’ve been asking myself for several years now why we are starting to reduce good acting to mimickry (Meryl Streep is a chief suspect in this problem). I also felt like the tempo was off in the beginning of the film — too slow — although this problem is resolved about a quarter of the way in. In the end, I felt like the film presented a really great answer to the question of why she became a gay icon (I loved that subplot — really sympathetic portrait of fandom there), and it did a good job of showing how someone could be a great artist and also so deeply flawed, without descending into stereotype or cliché (which would have been easy given that Garland is sort of a representative figure for a kind of singer / actor who got eaten up by the Hollywood dream machine). Probably the best things I can say are (a) I sympathized with Judy rather than feeling sorry for her, which is a tribute to Zellweger’s performance and (b) I have found myself thinking about it several times today, which is relatively unusual these days. I can see Zellweger getting multiple nominations, but the film itself probably won’t.

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                • Joker sounds like the acting will be fabulous, but I’m not sure I want to see it. Maybe once it leaves theatres.

                  I thought Judy sounded interesting, but I’m not the biggest Renee Zellweger fan. But I read that she wasn’t really imitating Judy Garland’s singing? Was the imitation more in the mannerisms? This is partly why I enjoyed Rocketman but am not as sure about seeing Malek imitate Freddie Mercury.

                  I assume the film focuses on her later life? I know that as a child filming The Wizard of Oz and other movies, the studio was quite adamant about the (for her) unrealistic body weight and really started her whole spiral into self-doubt and addiction. Very sad.

                  I’d like to see Judy, if I can get past my (irrational) dislike of Zellweger. Just to see the depiction of Judy Garland.

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    • B movie dramas are often watched at home, mostly by “women” who don’t go out for a big screen…Moviegoers who go to movie theaters are looking for other kinds of film.

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      • That’s true now, but it hasn’t been true all that long — 10-15 years or so. In the US it used to be the case that if a theater were showing (say) six films, at least one or two would be appropriate for small children or “family films” and one or two would be serious films appropriate for adults (whether or not of high artistic quality). When I look at what our theatres offer now, the vast majority is really targeted at particular demographics — this summer it was all horror, superhero sequels, and films for small children, with a few music films sprinkled in.

        I watch this TV channel in the US called “Turner Classic Movies” and it shows a lot of B films from the 40s and 50s that originally must have been watched by women. When did we stop going out to the cinema?

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        • “it hasn’t been true all that long 10-15 years or so” I agree.
          “When did we stop going out?”…..out for lot of causes: to the cinema , to collect mushrooms in autumn , to ride a bicycle, to walk or to run… I see less people outside nowadays and I think we both know why?

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        • I think I get Turner Classic Movies, too, but I haven’t watched in a while.

          I wonder which came first? That women stopped going to the movies or that cinemas started showing mainly superhero and horror movies?

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          • I’m only speculating — but based on my parents’ behaviors: in the 50s and early 60s they went to the movies a lot, practically weekly. At that point, a lot of film became more realistic and thus too edgy for them — they didn’t want to see nudity, sex, profanity, and heavy amounts of violence. So serious film maybe became too realistic? And there just wasn’t so much fluff. I feel like the superhero / horror boom came somewhat later.

            TCM shows a lot of crap but they run a lot of interesting stuff too — I like their “Summer under the Stars” where every August they show films from one particular Hollywood great per day (this is how I gained my knowledge of the work of Sidney Poitier), and then they have something called “Noir Alley” that I enjoy periodically. They also run a lot of silent film which isn’t so much my thing but can occasionally be interesting.

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            • Oh yeah, that’s true … people wanted (want) escape, not reality. I remember reading that on the Dick Van Dyke show, Rob and Laura had to have one foot on the floor if they were on one of the twin beds … sensors wouldn’t allow the idea that married people might be having sex! But I wonder why we can only rarely have, say, a romantic comedy anymore that doesn’t involve continuous profanity and/or sexual. Maybe I can find one on TCM. And no, I don’t want to watch Hallmark movies, which ARE readily available.

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              • I’ve only seen one romantic comedy this year — Yesterday — that I am aware of. The genre doesn’t really appeal to me. That said — I think given that romance is assumed to involve sex now, that ends up being in the forefront of those movies, otherwise it doesn’t seem relatable to a lot contemporary audiences. If you want romantic comedy w/o sex, Bollywood is the best source. (I’ve heard more than once that there are big conservative Christian audiences for Bollywood romances precisely for this reason.)

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                • Romantic comedy is one of the few genres that my husband and I watch together. The last one we saw was The Longshot, with Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan. I liked it, except for all the unnecessary swearing, bathroom humour, and penis jokes. Do people really not like movies without those? And just for clarity, I’m not a prude and I can swear like a sailor, but there’s a time and a place. It is unrealistic that someone gets up in the middle of an open work space, for example, and goes on a shouted swearing rant (I think that was that movie) and everyone just carries on as if that were normal. Sex in a relationship is normal and that’s fine, although it doesn’t need to be graphic. Sometimes a little bit left to the imagination is a good thing. Yeah, maybe I should try Bollywood.

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              • oh, re: TCM — because it’s October they’re going to show a lot of classic horror / haunting / monster films, especially during prime times. But there are a lot of gems on the schedule, too. I tend to find that it’s worth it to read their schedule at the beginning of a month just to see if there’s anything worthwhile that i haven’t seen yet.

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      • I suppose so. Really I was thinking more of independent films than of B movies as such. But even indie films are mainly only on Netflix. I for one would still like to see non-mainstream films in the theatre — but that’s why I’m often in a nearly empty theatre!

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        • “I for one would still like to see non-mainstream films in the theatre — but that’s why I’m often in a nearly empty theatre!”
          Me too and more specifically when I watch VO or art house and engaged movies,
          Green Book (2019), Kona fer í stríð (2018) , Never look away (2018), Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (2017)…

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