Thursday, December 11, 2008

"The Duchess"

Title: The Duchess
Running time: 109 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Keira Knightley,Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell
Director: Saul Dibb

My information on new movies pretty much runs out with either a fleeting poster on the net or a cleverly posted trailer on some websites, the ones I download movies from usually. Because of that little was known to me about Keira Knightley’s newest personification in the movie “The Duchess”. All I did know after watching the minute long trailer was the insatiable need to watch this movie as soon as possible. The premiere and cinema round have already passed this autumn and after several months it was available to watch in Bulgaria as well. To put my experience in one sentence I would say that my expectations were met, satisfied to the fullest and then surpassed.

Lady Georgiana Spencer (Knightley) marries at the tender age of seventeen to the wealthy, well known and respected William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire (Fiennes). According to the rules behind marrying off daughters in the 18th century such an arrangement can be considered as a major success for the Spencer family. Georgiana elevates in society as the Duchess of Devonshire, earning prestige for herself and her family. However as the story progresses she finds that the world belongs to the men, who can do whatever they please, with disregard to their wives as they have only one duty: giving birth to a male child. Georgiana’s fantasy revolving around family idyll is inevitably lost due to William’s frequent affaires and her inability to give him a son. The turning point on her life is Georgiana’s friendship with Lady Foster (Atwell), who becomes William’s mistress and life in the Devonshire estate becomes a very absurd marriage relationship between three people. Georgiana decides to strike back and results in several dramatic situations, until she can find peace within herself.

I have saved all the roller coaster rides for the viewer to experience and their number is satisfying enough to make this movie one of the top historical dramas in your rank lists. Interesting enough to mention is that “The Duchess” has confirmed historical roots, so it is not entirely fiction, but more like a biographical look over the life of the Duchess of Devonshire, who according to Internet has blood relations to the deceased Princess Diana. As far as my movie genre tastes go, I am always drawn to this time period, because I know I will expect something worth watching and with class. The emotional issues in the 18th century as well as the moral aspects in London’s elite have always intrigued me deeply. In this regard “The Duchess” doesn’t fail to deliver the intricate web sticking and entwining relationships together as well as the loss of privacy and most social events involve playing charades and secretly signal people behind your back.

Music created the perfect atmosphere. Costumes created a strong visual spell and every small detail contributed to the movie by grabbing the viewer’s attention. Strong performance is also promised. Keira Knightley has clearly had some practice in titles such as “Pride and Prejudice”, “Silk” and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, so as we see she is in her forte. Ralph Fiennes hasn’t landed a single bad enough role to damage his reputation as a precise and talented enough actor to bring any character to life. Among these veterans so to say in the industry come Hayley Atwell from “Brideshead Revisited” and Dominic Cooper from “Mama Mia”.

Even though I find it as one of the strongest British productions of the years, the movie lacks in certain areas. The director Saul Dibb could have dealt with the pacing in the movie far better and to create a more dynamic progress, upon which the emotions to avalanche and smite the viewer. Instead there are zones, where all emotional tension is diminished and I was left bored. Gladly enough this didn’t occur to frequent. The second flaw of the movie would be the ending itself as it was too vague, it never really built to it and left one of the major plot lines unsolved, namely the Lady Foster issue, which persists throughout the whole movie.

But aside all the minor glitches, “The Duchess” will leave a very strong impression or if not that you will know that the two hours of viewing time haven’t been wasted.

What Others are Saying: USA Today ~ Chicago Metromix ~ San Francisco Chronicle ~ The New Republic ~ The Philadelphia Inquierer ~ The New York Post

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