The Duchess (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/09/2008

The Duchess London Premiere

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Enjoyable, sharply written and smartly directed costume drama with terrific performances from Knightley and Fiennes and intriguing not-so-subtle parallels with recent Royal scandals.

What's it all about?
Based on a true story, The Duchess is set in the late 1700s and stars Keira Knightley as Georgiana Spencer (Princess Diana's great-great-great-great aunt), who's married off to the wealthy Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) while still a teenager. However, Georgiana soon discovers that the Duke is only interested in acquiring a male heir and that she's expected to be a mother to his illegitimate daughter and put up with him sleeping with the servants.

As the years pass, Georgiana gives birth to two daughters but no sons, which only drives the Duke and Duchess further apart. Things get even worse when the Duke begins an affair with Georgiana's best friend Bess (Hayley Atwell) and moves her into their house, while Georgiana herself is tempted into an affair with her childhood friend Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), who's destined to become Prime Minister.

The Good
The script is superb, subtly drawing out the intriguing parallels between the lives of Georgiana and Princess Diana – in her day, Georgiana was also a much talked-about fashion icon who used her status to help people and was even pursued by the 18th century equivalent of the paparazzi (i.e. sketch artists). So it's a shame that the film's posters go and hit you over the head with it, by trumpeting the tag-line "There were three people in her marriage".

Knightley is excellent, delivering several stinging lines and putting all her frock-wearing, lip-quivering skills to good use. In addition, Fiennes is perfectly cast as the emotionally distant Duke and there's strong support from Atwell, Cooper and Charlotte Rampling as Georgiana's mother, Lady Spencer.

The Great
Director Saul Dibb orchestrates some powerfully emotional scenes – the moment when Georgiana discovers Bess' betrayal is particularly wrenching. The film also benefits from sumptuous cinematography courtesy of Guyla Pados.

Worth seeing?
The Duchess is an emotionally engaging drama with a terrific central performance from Keira Knightley. Recommended.

Film Trailer

The Duchess (15)
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Content updated: 16/08/2018 22:43

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