Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022) is a saccharine atrocity. Virtually all the characters are back from the final TV season, but they’ve had the blood squeezed out of them. The script leaves no one any dignity; the actors aren’t just actors anymore — they’re cardboard symbols of the resilient English spirit, diamonds of the Empire with stiff upper lips. This lame, pointless rip-off of Singin’ in the Rain (1952) is presented earnestly, as if nobody had ever heard of the silent-to-sound transition, and despite the fact that the film studio in the current story is the London-based producer of “quota quickies,” British Lion, all the characters keep mysteriously referring to their surroundings as “Hollywood.” What can you say about the writing in a movie that shamelessly treats all these dowagers, lords, ladies, and lackeys as wooden tokens of British class divisions and old-movie stereotypes (This Happy Breed , Mrs. Miniver , The White Cliffs of Dover , and so on, where the only humor in the dialogue is inadvertent), or that relies on piled-up happy outcomes? I don’t remember a single moment in the two-hours-plus romance that was sexy or passionate, and when a baby is carried in at the end, I was baffled as to how it got there. At a time of our current upswing in erotic dramas in streaming programs, Downton Abbey: A New Era is presented as a chaste throwback to the sexless “family” entertainment of Joe Pasternak and Henry Koster. It’s a shame there isn’t a singing nun in it somewhere.
|Static pose. Maggie Smith|