Three things are true: I think Lord Julian Fellowes’ period-pieces are self-serving eulogies to the people who gave him his generational privilege; they feed onto Conservative Britain’s glorification of horrible eras such as the Victorian or the Edwardian (and that’s not even counting colonialism), and I will gobble up anything he churns out because there are times to deconstruct and there are times to watch nothing happening to very fancy people in beautiful locations, quite literally wearing nostalgia.
The full trailer for Downton Abbey: A New Era dropped yesterday, and we’re finally taking the Crawleys out of Britain … for something other than fighting in a World War! It’s probably 1929, and the Dowager Countess inherits a villa in the south of France from a former lover, a promise from a lover she had before marrying the Duke of Grantham. Lady Violet must have had some moves to get that French nobleman to keep his promise after six decades. Since no Briton would ever pass on the opportunity of leaving their miserable weather and travel to the Mediterranean, Robert, Mary, Edith, and her husband travel to the villa to check it out. This of course means secrets will be revealed. Legendary French actress Nathalie Baye is featured in an undisclosed role, probably as the daughter of the Duchess’ former lover.
The B-plot has the palace being rented by a film production, a talkie (which sets this in late 1928 at the very least), with Laura Haddock playing a platinum-blonde diva and the man, the myth, the rake Dominic West playing a closeted film star. Hijinks ensue, the downstairs crew can’t keep their chill and, of course, Mr. Carson thinks the whole thing is very un-British, or something.
By now, we all watch Downton Abbey for the pageantry and because its plots are centered on comically low-stakes problems. It seems that with the storyline of the film production, Fellowes is doing a gentle meta-tease about … well, I don’t know, I don’t expect him to go much deeper than a few jokes that slightly scratch the fourth wall, like the final scene in the trailer. If Ryan Reynolds can build his entire career on dancing around the fourth wall, I won’t blame Fellowes for a few bad jokes. Just give us that gorgeous Deco fashion and all the movies you want in-between the original series and the inevitable “The Next Generation,” with the children all grown up and set during World War II.
The previous film hinted at the Dowager Countess having little time left to live, which was pointless. By now, we should just assume Maggie Smith lives to at least a hundred years old and plan accordingly.
One more aside: if we go by the canon, Violet Crawley got married before 1860 (at age 18), so we should assume her French escapade took place around 1859. You know what was happening in 1859 very close to the south of France and involving the then empire? The freaking Second War of Italian Independence! It was bloody, and all over the nearby Lombardy and Piedmont and she was just frolicking around? To quote Kendall Kardashian, or Khloe or Karmina “People are dying, Violet!”.
Downton Abbey: A New Era premieres in UK theaters on April 29th, US theaters on May 20th and will stream on Peacock 45 days later.
Header Image Source: Focus Features