I do not know what it is I love me some period dramas. Drawing room snarkiness, crazy ornate costumes that require the actors to take a breath between each word, silly British accents and outdated gender politics really make me want to wet my pants. Right now I am watching a British show from the seventies called Upstairs Downstairs and I am eating that shit up. It got me thinking about several shows and movies that I love just because it reflects a certain time where there was tea, fainting couches, and servants rushing around everywhere. So I decided that I would break out the rusty top five and showcase some things that you probably already know about but I want to say “yes. I like these things too.”
5. Downton Abbey
Who doesn’t love this show? I haven’t seen the most recent season but the first season knocked my pants off it was so great. I haven’t seen the nuances of politics at this particular time in Britain portrayed so vividly ever. The servant who is actually a radical, the gender politics started to stretch and tear at the seems as evidenced by the daughter, the wife and Dame Maggie Smith’s character (also holy shit I love the insults that character spits at everyone. Maggie Smith should be canonized, she is such a great actress!), and inevitable lead up to World War I where everyone can feel it coming but no one can stop it is absolutely fascinating to watch.
4. The Piano
The only entry on here that is not British, the film is too great not to be left off of any list ever. The film follows a woman who moves to New Zealand from Scotland with her daughter to join her new husband. What happens after is a complex examination of how incredibly hard it is to be a woman in a male dominated society, much less a mute one with a daughter from a previous marriage. I would suggest you seek this gem out for no other reason than to see a very young Anna Paquin and Harvey Keital take off his shirt. Oh Yeah. Good Stuff.
3. Pride and Prejudice
Before I go on, let me be very clear: The film Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley is shit. It is not faithful to the book at all, it is way too melodramatic and Kiera Knightley makes the worst Elizabeth Bennet I have ever seen. Hollywood do yourself a favor: stop putting this anorexic bland actress in stuff. She brings it down with her horse face. (sigh) Anyway, I am talking about the mid nineties mini series that catapulted Colin Firth into the international symbol for dashing gentleman. This series always makes me fall in love with Jane Austen all over again every time I watch it (which is a lot). The delivery of her witty lines, the small yet grand love story, and the unique characters really shine in this masterpiece. This is how Jane Austen should be treated. Not like some overly romanticized melodramatic piece of poop, but as a delicate exchange between the myriad of characters she crafted. I have said my peace.
2. Remains of the Day
I knew Anthony Hopkins exclusively from the Hannibal Lector series before watching this film. I was stunned to find out that he can be understated, sweet, and heartbreaking at the same time. This film involves a quiet love story between two servants who serve a Hitler apologist. Both Hopkins and Thompson are great in this film and their chemistry is undeniable. This film has a lot of small moments in it that make your heart-break from the sweetness of it all… I don’t want to give any away but there is one scene involving a book that Hopkins’ character is reading that is pure gold.
1. Gosford Park
This film is what got me into upper crusty drawing-room dramas. I watched this late one night on IFC and I fell in love. To be able to not only see what is going on in the mansion level, but to also see how the servants are affected by those events was a revelation at the time. (I had just started to get into films… give me a break) I have given Altman shit in the past on this blog for his politics and his knack for multiple story lines that lead to underdeveloped characters but I forgive him everything because of this film. It is beautiful in the most simplest of terms. Also Maggie Smith is in it and how can you ever go wrong with her (Seriously… canonization… Make it happen!)
I probably left off a lot of shows and films that I will be kicking myself later for, but you know it happens. Thanks for reading my post and if you have any suggestions for other films or television series let me know in the comments.