Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Duchess

I'll admit, "The Duchess," has fantastic costumes, ones that will surely be nominated for Academy Awards and might win. That's what this movie is: a vehicle for gowns, hairdos, and 18th century aristocratic life. The term we use is "costume picture." "The Duchess" really is all about its fashion: it has really no point other than for the ladies of England to walk around, showing off their dresses. The film has two great leads, Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, and neither are really employed to any good use here. Knightley plays The Duchess of Devonshire, known informally as Georgiana. Fiennes is merely a presence as The Duke of Devonshire, a man who gets his way, just like all men in the 1700's. Georgiana is summoned to give The Duke an heir, and she is not extremely successful, and as she tries, the relationship thins to a crisp.

There is "sexual tension" being given off by two different lovers: Lady Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell of "Cassandra's Dream,") with The Duke and Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) with The Duchess. We are supposed to care, and the whole film is built off of these very shallowly portrayed relationships. This is why the film ultimately fails to be as good as it can. Also, there is a lack of sufficient emotion. When Georgiana is raped by The Duke, the way the scene is done, she doesn't seem to care. This is towards the end, for sure. The film makes a definite nosedive after the first hour, so much that I couldn't believe the movie had gone that far. Saul Dibb seems to think that a movie can run on style, but like other filmmakers before him, he's wrong in so many ways. Just like this film is. C

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