There were two kind of people in the audience: those who have seen every, or almost every, 52 episodes of "Downton Abbey" and those who never saw it or, like me, only saw, maybe 3-4 episodes, over the 6 seasons it was on PBS.
You could tell people from the first category as they laughed at EVERYTHING Maggie Smith said, and did, funny or not, while those in the latter category might have smiled at one of her barbed witticisms but certainly didn't laugh out loud.
This is a review looking at it as a stand alone movie while those who see it as an extension of the series most definitely would review it differently.
The screenplay by Julian Fellowes introduces between 30-40 characters with about as many story lines involving 2 or 10 of them. Anyone who is a movie goer can see where most of them are heading but a couple fail to pay off and a couple just fizzle out while a major one had me going, "So what's new? Knew that from the moment they came on screen!"
The opening segment sets the direction of all the lush photographic scenes and rich looks, in more ways than one, of the costumes, jewelry, and the settings both in and out of Downton Abbey.
The story revolves around the visit of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) who will be spending an evening at Downton Abbey, bringing their own staff of kitchen and servants which brings about a rebellion between the Royal's and Abbey's staffs offering about 5-6 story lines while there are many, some confusing, story lines regarding family members in all sorts of matches from mother and daughter to sister-in-laws.
There are too many actors/characters to mention all but, yes, Maggie Smith is a delight and the encounters between her and Imelda Staunton are master classes in acting. I have been a fan of Elizabeth McGovern since I saw her in 1981 in "Ragtime" but I have a feeling her role in the TV series was larger and stronger. I recognized a few actors such as Jim Carter but the one who really made an impression, and getting the biggest laugh, is one I am unable to put a name with the face even looking through the cast credits--possibly Brendon Coyle--playing one of the major Abbey servant's.
While "Downton Abbey" is a good example of the genre it is not as memorable as "Howards End" or, my favorite, "A Room With A View". While the outdoor scenes are lush this sequel would have done better as a 'made for TV movie'.
Am curious to hear from fans of the TV series as to what they thought of the movie.