The Duchess

by Alan Rapp on October 9, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Duchess
  • IMDB: link

“It is said that the Duke is the only man in Devonshire not in love with his wife.”

The film chronicles the public life of Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley) from her ill-suited wedding to the Duke (Ralph Fiennes), through her life in high society, her role as wife and mother, and her struggle with finding love.

Outside of her marriage Gerogiana is the life of the party, with a talent for fashion and a passion for the cause of women’s suffrage.

At home however her life is a struggle with her inability go give her husband a male heir, her husband’s infidelity with all manner of women including her closest firend (Hayley Atwell), her not so well hidden feelings for the young eager politician Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) and the growing distance in her marriage.

The main obstacle for historic films with scandalous subject matter (for the the times) is to keep the story from falling from drama into melodrama.  The Duchess does a good job for most of it’s running time but finally succumbs in its final act which feels more like a romance novel than a historical drama.

Even if the film flounders some towards the end it does quite a bit right.  Knightley shines once again in a period role, though Georgiana for all her importance is one of the weaker women she’s played on screen as the script paints her a bit too much of a victim for my tastes.  I would have liked to see more of the strength of this important woman in British history.

The supporting cast is strong with Fiennes, Cooper, Atwell, and Charlotte Rampling in the small role as Georgiana’s mother.  And in terms of sets, costumes, and art design the film is a great success.

Although The Duchess might get notice for its leading lady, and Fiennes who puts in a strong performance, and its style and look, it’s not quite the film it hopes to be.  Through the film we watch Georgiana struggle with her situation, but we learn very little about her as a person other than her loneliness and desire to be loved.  It’s not quite the complete film I would have liked, but what it does right it does very well,

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