Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Simon McBurney, Aidan McArdle
In the movie “The Duchess,” we see Knightley do what she does best as an actress and that is portray a convincing facsimile of a historical character. Knightly plays Lady Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire in the 18th century.
To call this film a period piece would suffice. Yet this film does much more in depicting the lack of power and authority of women in that time period. Women were considered an extension of a man’s property and wealth. Georgiana was placed in an arranged marriage to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes).
The key players Knightley, Fiennes and Hayley Atwell (Georgiana’s only friend and the mistress to the duke) all play their parts with such a commitment to the social constraints of the time. The audience does not agree with the imbalance of the lives the elite led. But the die is cast, and viewers can understand the circumstances. It was tolerated that men could beat their wives. It was common that women could not be property owners. It was necessary that women be a part of the process of providing heirs to one’s inheritance, yet by no means was a woman’s opinion or permission ever taken into consideration.
The duke is a statesman who is incapable of an emotional and physical connection with his wife. The passivity and sense of entitlement to the accruements of his social status are conveyed perfectly. The duke has a history of dalliances with other women, and this is accepted as the norm. However, when the duchess takes a lover and becomes pregnant, she is instructed to end the relationship and then is whisked away to give birth under the guise of traveling on holiday throughout Europe.
It is the accuracy and the depth to which the actors give these lives a sense of futility and quiet desperation that makes this film worthwhile. For those who followed the fashion style and trends of Princess Diana — who is a descendent of Georgiana — you will enjoy the extravagant period costumes and wigs worn by the women.
This is a must see for history buffs. Everyone else can wait for it on DVD.
Chic Stars: Three Chic Stars
Jan’s Movie Rating System:
5 – Top-notch entertainment
4 – Compelling, Heartwarming, Thrilling, Comical
3 – The a) story b) actors c) special effects saved/made this movie.
2 – If you are bored, watch it, or wait for DVD
1 – Don’t bother. Too morose, too violent, too blasè, an enigma.
Photo: Courtesy of Oscar Guy