A Movie Review of The Duchess
The Duchess is the disturbing story of a young noblewoman who marries Britain’s most powerful peer and becomes the toast of London. The Duchess arrived on DVD and Blu-ray December 28th from Paramount Home Entertainment. Keira Knightley (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean ), Ralph Fiennes (In Bruges, the Harry Potter series, The Constant Gardener), Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!), and Hayley Atwell (Brideshead Revisited ) star in this dismal, tragic tale of a vibrant woman trapped in a loveless marriage at 17 to the wealthy and influential William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes), the fifth Duke of Devonshire, a man who cares more about his dogs and his lineage than his wife. His disgust with her grows as she bears two daughters, and to further complicate matters and insult his wife, he takes a mistress into his house, into his household, and into his social life. The Duchess of Devonshire and “Empress of Fashion” eventually must face an agonizing choice between responsibility and love. That’s what she gets for marrying Voldemort!
The Duchess is based upon the true story of young Georgiana Spencer, a direct ancestor to Princess Diana, who marries into power and becomes a fashion icon in her day. While the movie hints at her role in politics and press blurbs calls Georgiana “a devoted mother, a voice for the common man,” The Duchess dwells much more on such unsavory aspects as the scandals: her affair with Charles Grey, her brutal rape by her husband, his affairs, and even deviates into a brief quasi-lesbian scene. This “devoted mother” leaves her children to have an affair, and according to the movie, almost doesn’t return to the them. The “devoted mother” is also forced into giving up the illegitimate child she bore Grey. As Duchess of Devonshire, she reportedly becomes one of the most impassioned political voices in all of 18th century Britain, but this interesting point is sort of lost in all the titillating scandals that are bound to sell more tickets and DVDs than the “voice for the common man” ever could.
The acting in The Duchess is at times superb, especially Ralph Fiennes, and the gowns and scenery are sumptuous eye candy, but the movie has few redeeming plot lines. This is definitely not a movie for teens or children, or for people who want to feel good after seeing a movie. It is a depressing tale of the way even noble women were often treated in Great Britain by their husbands during the day as their role at the time was that of a brood mare, as well as prized possession, if they were lucky. The lack of morals in a society that claimed to be Christian was appalling… much like America today. I felt like I needed a bath and a steaming mug of hot coco to lift me out of the funk I felt after viewing The Duchess. History buffs might enjoy the movie if it follows the story of Georgiana Spencer relatively closely.
One interesting note is that Keira Knightley refused to allow any enhancement of her cleavage on publicity photos for the role, according to Britain’s Daily Mail reports. Studio heads apparently wanted to enlarge Knightley’s bosom in the photos, but the 23-year-old actress declined.
The Duchess, rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and thematic material, is not a movie I would recommend. To read more about the movie and the extras in the DVD, read the longer review at The Duchess a Royal Disappointment.
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