Movie Review for The Duchess (2008)


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Review #705 of 365
Movie Review of The Duchess (2008) [PG-13] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.25
Where Viewed: Harkins Ciné Capri at Northfield 18, Denver, CO
When Seen: 14 October 2008 @ 7:40 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: there is nothing
Unsung Member of the Crew: Hair Designer – Jan Archibald

Soundtrack: Download now from Rachel Portman - The Duchess (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Saul Dibb (Bullet Boy )
Screenplay by: Jeffrey Hatcher (Casanova) • Anders Thomas Jensen (Hvid nat) • Saul Dibb (Bullet Boy) based on the book Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Keira Knightley (Atonement) • Ralph Fiennes (In Bruges) • Charlotte Rampling (Babylon A.D.) • Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) • Hayley Atwell (Cassandra's Dream) • Simon McBurney (Body of Lies)


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Based on the real life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire adapted from the >book of the same name by Amanda Foreman, Saul Dibb's The Duchess unfortunately will serve as a minor disappointment despite valiant efforts on the parts of so many to any who read the book or knew the story of the real Duchess. The film story by co-screenwriters Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Saul Dibb focuses far, far too much on the love triangle between the Duke (Ralph Fiennes), Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Foster (Hayley Atwell), and the Duchess (Keira Knightley) and far too little on the rest of the Georgiana's extravagant life. The real Duchess was the cause celeb of the decade during her hey days of 1774–1795.

… an opulent and gorgeous film from start to finish
She was beautiful, had a taste for gambling, and while married to the Duke, she fathered a child by Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), a politician for whom she developed a grand mutual affection. She loses her best girlfriend, Lady Foster, to the Duke which serves to further distance them from each other despite staying married until she died. She hosted the best parties and had the ear of princes and powers that be. What she wore became the fashion of the day, and when she supported a political candidate crowds of supporters were tripled. The film definitely gives a sense of some of these things, but by focusing to such a large degree on the ménage à trois, the film fails to bring her fully to light. You get a sense of her complete sadness and dismay from a marriage arranged at age 17, but you do not really get the sense of how dynamic and influential she truly was for a woman in her time.

It seems as though there needs to be at least one film a year, though, that featured the ornate costumes of the regal attire of the English aristocracy—it's a sure fire Academy Award® nomination for best costume. Hair and make-up will likely get a nod as well. The acting too, is particularly grand with Keira Knightley portraying the Duchess with flair, strength, and sweetness as is her signature. Ralph Fiennes who seems to have taken to playing villainous types, adds a wry and dry characterization of the Duke to the story. He smiles, but only once. The character seems to have a flair for the obvious, and Ralph Fiennes taps into that. Charlotte Rampling must have gotten a new agent because she's absolutely everywhere these days, and bravo! Her dynamic yet sensible portrayal of Lady Spencer, Georgiana's mother, was entirely credible. Haley Atwell, endows Lady Foster with beauty and a certain degree of sneakiness. She's eager to become the Duke's mistress as he can arrange for her to see her sons again after they were taken away by her husband. Sadly, the film would have been far better and more exciting had it focused more on the secret trysts and love affair between Charles Grey and the Duchess. The dashing and charismatic Dominic Cooper has brilliant chemistry with Keira Knightley, and the absolute best parts of the film involve these two. His glances across the room toward her speak a thousand love poems, yet it takes quite a while for her to notice. Once she does, however, these two spark great passion and true love. Unfortunately, the scornful Duke will ensure they never have the love they deserve.

The Duchess is an opulent and gorgeous film from start to finish. Richly decorated sets and ravishing costumes beguile the eyes. The story portrayed in the film just isn't as captivating as the real life of the Duchess because it focuses too narrowly on just one dimension of her life and does not reveal as great a sense of who she was as it might have.



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Cast Members
Keira KnightleyRalph FiennesCharlotte Rampling
Dominic CooperHayley AtwellSimon McBurney
Director
Saul Dibb
Writers
Jeffrey HatcherAnders Thomas JensenSaul Dibb

Review-lite The Duchess (2008) [max of 150 words]
Based on the real life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire adapted from the >book of the same name by Amanda Foreman, Saul Dibb's The Duchess unfortunately will serve as a minor disappointment despite valiant efforts on the parts of so many to any who read the book or knew the story of the real Duchess. The film story by co-screenwriters Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Saul Dibb focuses far, far too much on the love triangle between the Duke (Ralph Fiennes), Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Foster (Hayley Atwell), and the Duchess (Keira Knightley) and far too little on the rest of the Georgiana's extravagant life.

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