When a letter arrives informing Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) that the King and Queen are coming to visit Downton Abbey, everyone upstairs and downstairs is thrown into a frenzy of silver polishing and dress alterations in preparation for their arrival. The staff get very put out when they learn that the Royals are bringing their own cook and their own staff to take charge. But they come up with a discrete plan to make sure that they have the honour of serving the King and Queen.
Set in 1927, this film brings all your favourite characters from Julian Fellowes' hugely successful TV drama on to the big screen.
Apparently the idea for the story was inspired by a real-life royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Wentworth in 1912.
There are fine performances - especially from Maggie Smith as the haughty Dowager Countess, Jim Carter the baritone voiced butler Mr Carson, Kevin Doyle, as the obsequious servant Molesley, Geraldine James as Queen Mary, Simon Jones a dead ringer for King George and Rob James-Collier as the lonely gay butler.
Besides the overarching royal visit plotline there are a dozen other stories swirling about here - several romances, some petty larceny, and many small acts of kindness - all introduced in short fast-moving cameo pieces, by John Lunn's lively orchestral tunes.
The costumes are gorgeous, scenery beautiful, the country house settings of course are lavish and village scenes very quaint.
Fellowes' earlier movie set in a stately home, Gosford Park, had more substance that this one I feel. The 1993 film The Remains of the Day, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, starring Anthony Hopkins is much more subtle and complex - still my favourite upstairs-downstairs film.
But while I found Downton Abbey a bit lightweight, it is an entertaining romp which I'm sure many people - especially fans of the TV series, will love.
The film is being released today across the UK - in time for the Christmas market.
Watch a trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3mP0c51hE
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