How it feels to watch the Downton Abbey movie when you've never seen the show
This is the Avengers: Endgame of period romance dramas.
Who are all these people? Why are there so many of them? Do they all live in this house? Do only some live here and some others visit on a semi-permanent basis? How are they related? Do the rich people who own the Abbey and the not-rich people who just work there actually like each other?
There are so many questions and feelings and thoughts and reactions to the Downton Abbey movie if you've never watched the show, and almost none of them good.
Except for Maggie Smith. She is a treasure and needs to be protected at all costs. But we'll get back to that.
The plot for the movie is startlingly straight-forward: the King and Queen of England are coming to visit Downton Abbey for a night, so everything needs to be clean and proper.
Simple enough, except the movie piles on so many subplots that it is hard to keep track of everything, and even harder to keep track of how everyone feels about them all.
Very early in the movie, a hunky plumber arrives and it looks like the cook lady is gonna hook up with him, but her waiter fiancé is super jealous, so in retaliation he breaks the pipes that the hunky plumber just fixed... which just makes the plumber come back again, which is surely the opposite of what the waiter fiancé wanted?
Perma-cinematic bad guy Stephen Campbell Moore pops up and it seems like he is investigating handsome Irish man Allen Leech, perhaps concerned that as an Irish man, he might want to assassinate the King and Queen while they're staying in his Abbey, for no reason more than he is Irish and they are British? But then... well, it turns out that the actual reason why Toby Stephens is there is even more stupid than that, and the entire subplot is set up, dealt with, and forgotten about in about 30 minutes flat.
The entire movie seems to have that problem, suffering from some kind of ADHD, with no scene lasting longer than 45 seconds, and every time there is some music playing over it to remind you what emotions you're supposed to be feeling right now.
It really is quite maddening how the movie plays out: important characters are still being introduced ninety minutes in, there are several lengthy montages of people just cleaning things and cooking things, and the apparent importance of some subplots over others will make you question whether you understand how the world really works.
One storyline involves small but expensive items going missing throughout the house, and eventually the culprit is discovered. How are they found out? No idea. I asked my date for the evening - an avid Downton Abbey fan - and their response was "Oh yeah, everyone just knows everything in this house."
What? WHAT?? That isn't plot development. That is just people talking and things happening, but for no and with no discernible reason.
But again, this obviously isn't for the non-Abbey converted. There has been over 50 episodes of backstory to remember fondly as this all plays out, and those in the audience around me were clearly here for that proper goodbye. When two characters, who had been making eyes at each other for the whole movie, finally held hands - HELD HANDS! - the erotic gasps could be heard throughout the audience in the entire cinema.
And then it clicked. This is Twilight for an older generation. You either get it, or you don't.
Except for Maggie Smith. Her delightfully snarky character is given all of the best lines, and she delivers them with acidic gusto. I could watch an whole movie of just her scalping entire ballrooms with killer one-liners.
But unfortunately this is not that movie.
Downton Abbey is released in Irish cinemas on Friday 13 September.
Clip via Universal Pictures UK