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The Duchess
Click for full sized poster


The Duchess

Starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes
Screenplay by Saul Dibb, Jeffrey Hatcher and Anders Thomas Jensen
Based on the biography
        Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Directed by Saul Dibb

IN SHORT: GO. Sit. Watch. Enjoy a whole lot! [Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and thematic material. 105 minutes]

At age 17, the lovely Georgina Spencer (Kiera Knightly) is legally deeded -- by her mother, the Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling) who promises that her bloodline always delivers males -- to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). From the word "go" it is apparent to all viewers of director Saul Dibb's The Duchess, that "Lady G" would have preferred wedlock with one Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) an abolitionist with eyes on the Prime Minister-ship. Grey, having no title or property, is not a fitting match, according to mom and new hubbie and off we go into the very entertaining tale of 18th century matrimonial matters called The Duchess.

Cranky fully admits -- and got a great laugh from the film's publicist -- that he loves watching these period pieces. Especially the ones with women in 18th century gear that actually must be cut off the wearer, aptly demnstrated in one of the hottest and most disturbing sequences in the film. But we're getting ahead of our self . . .

The Duchess is a true story and aptly demonstrates how miserable life could be for even the most affluent of females in that long ago time. Spencer's husband is a cold fish, and at least a decade plus older than the new minted Lady (ancestor to the now deceased Lady Di, who you all should know from contemporary history) who is content to wow the crowds in her finery and attend lovely parties. All she has to do is deliver a male heir, act as mother to her husband's bastard children and wait, in silence, as her frustrated husband embarks on an affair with her best friend, the Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Spencer (Hayley Atwell). Bess has three sons by a husband who has abandoned her; none of those children could suceed the Duke, nor would any illegitimate children she may bear the Duke. Tut that doesn't stop him from getting his rocks off. Nor does it get in the way of "G's" own happiness -- her own extramarital whoop-de-doo with the aforementioned Mister Grey.

It's the 18th Century, folks. Husbands  can mess around. Wives, on the other hand, must be prim and proper. Rumors of Lady Georgina's extramarital romps apparently rip through London, embarrasing the Duke and leading to some truly unpleasant stuff. As strange as it may be to read, modern audiences sitting through the delightful The Duchess can't fail but think they're looking at an 18th century "open marriage". Of course, this particular wedding of convenience is a lot more entertaining than it sounds.

And those thinking that there couldn't be anything of interest in a serious drama set a couple of hundred years back are wrong. Fiennes is fine. Knightley carries most of the movie and delivers the goods. There is no padding to the story and we enjoyed the whole time trip thoroughly.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Duchess, he would have paid . . .


This is a great sit!

amazon com link Click to buy films by Saul Dibb
Click to buy films starring Ralph Fiennes
Click to buy films starring Kiera Knightley

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