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The Duchess

A 2008 film based on the life of an 18th-century English aristocrat starring Keira Knightley

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Love and Betrayal with a classic setting

  • Jan 25, 2009
  • by
The movie starts by claiming to be based on a true story. My history sucks so I'm not sure if it is or it isn't, but it's still an excellent film. Reviewer Terrance Allen called it a "Costume Drama", and his words are to the point and true. 'The Duchess' is a visual and audio array pleasing to the senses.

The year is 1774. Georgiana (Keira Knightly - King Arthur, Pirates Of The Caribbean) is to marry William, the Duke Of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling - Swimming Pool) is excited to give her daughter away to the Duke, though she knows the only reason the Duke is marrying her daughter is to produce an heir to his title.

Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) is a young, up and coming society male. He's to go to college and he studies to become a politician. Though they met before her marriage, Georgiana takes an interest in Charles because her passions are politics and gambling. As her marriage decays, especially after inviting her friend Elizabeth "Bess" Foster who betrays her friendship by striking up an affair with the Duke, Georgiana finds herself even more drawn to young Grey.

The music and photography are stunning; the costume design, sets, and visuals are spectacular. I'm not fond of Ralph Fiennes, but I find him very appropriate in the role of the Duke. His acting was better than it's ever been. Georgiana is saucy and intelligent, the scriptwriter dialogue is well done and makes for great characters that you find yourself involved with. On a funny note, all this talk about having sons during the era is quite humorous in today's world, where we know that the sex of the child is determined by the sperm of the father. In the movie's era, though, it was the woman who was blamed for the birth of daughters.

While a beautiful movie, it's a sad tale. The position of women in that era was so restricted that they were helplessly dependent on men. Georgiana's trials are heartrending, and her husband is a cold man incapable of seeing women as anything more than an object he owns. I loved this film, the beauty of it and the subject of material. While the film claims to be based on a true story, I'm not historically competent enough to judge if it is or isn't. Still, it's a magnificent film, one that you shouldn't miss if you like dramas of the era. Enjoy!
The Duchess

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review by . April 14, 2009
Watching "The Duchess" will most likely plant the thought that maybe Sofia Coppella should have directed this movie instead of "Marie Antoinette." It's not just that this is a better movie, but the themes of Georgiana's life seems more in line with the theme Coppella wanted to explore with Marie, but couldn't. I know I should try to reframe from comparing films to one another (and I should really make an effort not to open my reviews with them), but I bring this up now for those who simply want …
review by . April 03, 2009
The year is 1774, and 17-year old Georgiana hopes her marriage to the much older Duke of Devonshire will be a love match. Sadly, he's cold and distant and has a series of paramours, one of whom moves right into the family home with them.     Based on a true story, the movie highlights many parallels between Georgiana and her descendant, Princess Diana; Georgiana's husband cared only for an heir, was uninterested in her, and carried on an affair that lasted for 25 years. …
review by . December 19, 2008
Lady Spencer: All of London is talking.   Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire: Oh, let them talk!     Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):   1.   An arranged marriage to the older and wealthy Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) made young Georgiana (Keira Knightley) a Duchess. 2.   Unfortunately, the Duke was a man of few words, and the job description for his wife included only three tasks – bear heir; look pretty; no talking. 3.   This did …
review by . December 04, 2008
The Duchess DVD
A sad testament to the rigors of 18th century English society and women's roles, The Duchess tells the story of Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightly) and her marriage to the older Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). The product of a society that relegates women to window dressing and child-bearing, at sixteen Georgiana is filled with romantic notions and little information about the demands of marriage. Frolicking with her companions on the lawn of her family's estate- including future prime minister …
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I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
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About this movie


Starring Keira Knightly, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper
Directed By Saul Dibb
Written By Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen

Swaddled in whalebone and wigs, Keira Knightley steps into the restricted world of the Duchess of Devonshire, a royal lady popular with her subjects but stuck in an unhappy marriage. If this situation recalls Princess Diana (a descendent of the Duchess's family), so much the better for the purposes of director Saul Dibb and company; this film is eager to draw parallels with the unfortunate Lady Di, even if she is never directly mentioned. Knightley's unsuspecting girl is married off to the Duke (Ralph Fiennes), a distracted jerk who craves male sons, and obviously has never thought of women as anything other than a means to achieve an heir. When the Duchess launches her procreative career with a couple of daughters, well, the Duke begins to get nervous--and partners outside the marriage become increasingly appealing. The Duchess serves up lavish portions of Brit-movie staples: costumes (which, in Knightley's case, are nothing short of spectacular), landscapes,! and gorgeous music (by Rachel Portman). If it falls short in some vague way, perhaps it's because the film is a mostly one-note affair, meaning exactly what it seems to mean at every moment. Charlotte Rampling appears too briefly as Knightley's mother, and Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell (from Brideshead Revisited), rising stars both, contribute attractive ...
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Movies, Drama Movies, Drama, Historical Drama, Romantic Drama, Period Films, Costume Drama, Ralph Finnes, Duchess Of Devonshire, Kiera Knightley, Paramount, Period Drama


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