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Wednesday, 25 September 2019 09:14

‘Downton Abbey’ sumptuous and satisfying

“Downton Abbey” was a television phenomenon. For six seasons, millions of viewers immersed themselves in the lives of the residents of the Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey. The members of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants received equal airtime, with all of their dramas – large and small – playing out to the delight of a massive audience.

I was not a member of that massive audience. Aside from an occasional snippet caught due to a friend or loved one watching the show, I had zero exposure to the program. I was aware of it, but I was largely unfamiliar.

So when it came to the “Downton Abbey” film, I was left with two choices. I could try to catch up on some 50-plus hours of period drama … or I could go in cold and see if the film version held up without the context of the show.

I chose the latter.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 09 January 2019 13:51

Royal rumble – ‘Mary Queen of Scots’

There are few things that grab the attention of film award voters quite like royalty. They LOVE prestige fare about kings and queens; can’t get enough of it. Crowns and capes and thrones, palace intrigue and clanging swords and righteous rhetoric. These movies are almost always good, but to be better they need … something.

Maybe it’s a killer cast. Maybe it’s a filmmaker with a unique, unconventional perspective. Maybe it’s particularly compelling source material.

Or maybe, like with “Mary Queen of Scots,” it’s all three at once.

You’ve got two of Hollywood’s most talented young actresses leading the way in Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, with four Oscar nominations between them. You’ve got a director in Josie Rourke who has never directed a film before but has extensive and acclaimed experience as a stage director of work both classic and contemporary. And you’ve got the story of the titular queen’s life as adapted from John Guy’s pioneering biography “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart.”

And yet … it never manages to quite get over the top. While the performances from both Ronan and Robbie are outstanding and the look and tone of the film are suitably epic in scope and scale, the narrative is a bit overstuffed and lacking in specificity. Too often, things happen because they’re simply next on the list, rather than with any sort of agency or urgency behind them, which leads to more story-borne borderline-soapy melodrama than you might hope for in a film like this.

Published in Movies

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