British TV Soap Keeps Chugging Along

By Mark Fields

Downton Abbey is one of those inexplicable phenomena of the early 21st Century. An unapologetic soap opera set among the privileged lives of a British upper class family in the early 1900s – call it “gentry porn” – it was a stalwart ratings-winner for PBS for six seasons and successfully transitioned to a feature film with its cast and sensibilities intact. A second movie is out now, and it delivers many of the same guilty pleasures as the first film and series, but the formula and especially the plotlines are starting to get a little threadbare. It feels like they’re scraping for stories when a film crew co-opts the mansion and half the family traipses off to a villa in France. As much as I have loved the upstairs-downstairs drama and the solid performances from a uniformly terrific cast, I would not be sad for this film to be the fond farewell to the Crawleys before it all devolves into a disappointment, if not an outright embarrassment.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed films for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Mark also has written on the movies for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark has been an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University since 1998. A career arts administrator, he is the executive director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and now lives on Market Street. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.