The Duchess - Review

The Duchess
Ages: PG 13

This is a movie that has been under appreciated. A true story of the Duchess of Devonshire. novelized by Amanda Foreman from the Duchess' letters. The film opens with the scene of Lady Spencer and the Duke of Devonshire closing the arrangement of marriage between her daughter, Georgiana and the Duke. The Duke clearly is not interested in Georgiana beauty, talents or erudition - he wants a son - period.

Never a warm and sensitive person, he becomes icy cold after she presents him with a daughter and even worse with the second girl. With her wit and charm Georgiana turns to fashion and the public for approval. She befriends Lady Elizabeth Foster, who she takes into her home. The two develop a friendship which is torn apart by the Duke taking her (Lady Foster) as his mistress, making it a permanent threesome. The most poignant scene is when she storms at her husband for taking the only thing that was hers - her friend. Eventually she delivers a boy, and goes off to provide the star power for a lawyer aspiring to be Prime Minister. She has, and gives up the affair with him for the sake of her children and by the picture's end - settles down with some sort of accommodation as a wife, and renews her friendship with Lady Elizabeth Foster.

It was an interesting time - the colonies have been lost to Britain, and France is on the verge of a revolution. She was unusually political for a woman for her time and espoused a liberal Whigs platform. The film conveys the feeling of entrapment for women at that time - totally under the rule of her husband. The film's unusual, but accurate denouement leaves the viewer feeling strangely unfulfilled - have we become so accustomed neat happy endings? Keira Knightley plays Georgiana and Ralph Fiennes the Duke with nary a smile throughout the film.

The DVD version has extras that help flesh out the story. In Georgiana In Her Own Words, the author goes through and actually shows Georgiana's letters and diaries. In Costume Diary, Michael O'Conner describes the creation of the fabulous costumes which are shown beautifully in the Blue ray version -- every feather, gem and twist of lacework.

Fun Factor: Enjoyable
Female Factor: It wasn't easy being Georgianna

Reviewed by: Editor - 01/09

  • The Duchess
  • © Paramount Vantage
  • Platform(s): DVD
  • To Order: DVD $26.99