DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA – Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re an avid fan of the PBS series and followed the franchise onto the big screen, you should relish this reunion with the inhabitants of the Crawley’s stately country house who have become so familiar. But if you’re not acquainted with their backstories, this sequel may be a bit bewildering.

After a posh wedding sequence, Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) reveals that she has inherited a villa on the French Riviera from the Marquis de Montmiral, with whom she spent an idyllic week there six decades earlier – before either was married.

Since Violet’s health is precarious, she’ll bequeath the villa to her young granddaughter Sibbie (Fifi Hart), child of former-chauffeur Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and his late first wife, Lady Sybil.

Although the Marquis’ widow is resentful, his son graciously invites Lord Robert Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his extended family for a visit. Inevitably, the trip sparks controversy about Lady Violet’s past and the legitimacy of Robert’s title.

Meanwhile, their sojourn is perfectly timed since Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) has agreed to allow a Hollywood director (Hugh Dancy) to film a Victorian melodrama at Downtown Abbey, reasoning that British Lion’s hefty location fee will cover necessary roof repairs. Of course, their presence excites and intrigues the servants.

“The modern world comes to Downton …”

Written once again by series creator Julian Fellowes (HBO’s The Gilded Age) and directed by Simon Curtis (Woman in Gold), the period drama, set circa 1929, veers between Yorkshire and the South of France and is fraught with emotional complications.

“I suppose individual Crawleys come and go, but the family lives on,” concludes American-born Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Lady Grantham, perhaps heralding more sequels.

FYI: On the Cote d Azur, Lady Bagshaw and Mr. Carson are mistaken for a couple; off-screen, Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter have been married for years, and director Simon Curtis is married to Elizabeth McGovern.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Downton Abbey: A New Era is a highly satisfying, sentimental 7, playing in theaters.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.